An educational advocacy group released its third annual District Report Cards on Wednesday, showing that half the largest unified districts in the Bay Area improved in their efforts to educate low-income students and those who are African-American or Latino.

But still far too many districts are failing to adequately prepare those students for graduation and for college, according to the Oakland-based Education Trust-West. "We hope that parents, educators and community members will use these report cards as a resource to identify districts that are closing achievement gaps and providing greater opportunities for all students to be successful," said Jeannette LaFors, director of equity initiatives at Education Trust-West.

The independent student advocacy group used data from the California Department of Education to create A-F letter grades and numerical rankings in four key categories: student performance, academic improvement over five years, size of achievement gaps and college readiness. It combined all four grades to come up with the overall grades.

In the Bay Area, the San Ramon Valley district in Contra Costa County, which has a relatively small percentage of low-income and African-American or Latino students, scored a B overall, which placed it in the top 10 statewide. The Pleasanton district in Alameda County and the South San Francisco district in San Mateo County earned the next-highest overall grades of C-plus.


Advertisement

The West Contra Costa and Oakland districts scored lowest overall in the Bay Area and throughout the state, with grades of D-minus. Both districts received F's for the wide gaps that separate students of color from white students.

In the graduation rates category, San Ramon Valley, Castro Valley and Pleasanton all earned A's, while Oakland got an F. The district had one of the lowest graduation rates in 2012 for students of color of any large district in the state.

The San Ramon Valley district graduated 95 percent of its African-American and Latino students, ranking it number one in the state, followed by 93 percent in Castro Valley and 91 percent in Pleasanton. In contrast, only 54 percent of Oakland's students of color graduated last year.

Terry Koehne, San Ramon Valley spokesman, said the district has been focusing on preparing all students for graduation, college and careers by building strong relationships between teachers and students and looking at individual students' strengths and weaknesses.

"We pride ourselves on hiring the best and brightest educators around," he said. "And we have a very strong, committed parent community with high expectations."

In Santa Clara County, the district posting the highest overall grade was Gilroy with a C, while the lowest was Morgan Hill with a D. Gilroy is focused on bumping up the number of students going to college, said Superintendent Deborah Flores. "I am very pleased to see that we fared so well in our county," she said. "Next year, I hope to be in the B range."

In between were Milpitas with a C-minus, and Palo Alto, Santa Clara and San Jose with a D-plus. Vincent Matthews, superintendent of San Jose Unified, said the district's strategic plan calls for improving the achievement of poor and minority students.

"We have concerns, and we will strive to do more in closing the gap," he said.

Because the study looked only at unified (K-12) school districts, scores were missing for some of the largest districts in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, including East Side, Campbell, Sequoia and San Mateo, which run only high schools.

Staff writer Sharon Noguchi contributed to this story. Theresa Harrington covers education. Contact her at 925-945-4764 or tharrington@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/tunedtotheresa.

BAY AREA DISTRICT OVERALL GRADES
DISTRICT 2011 2012 CHANGE
Alameda City D+ D +
Antioch D D+ +
Berkeley D+ D+ same
Castro Valley C C same
Fremont D+ C- +
Gilroy C C same
Hayward D D same
Livermore Valley C- C +
Milpitas D+ C- +
Morgan Hill D D same
Mt. Diablo D D+ +
New Haven D+ D+ same
Oakland D D- -
Palo Alto D D+ +
Pittsburg N/A C- (up from D+ in 2010)
Pleasanton C- C+ +
San Francisco D D same
San Jose D+ D+ same
San Leandro C- D+ -
San Lorenzo C- C- same
San Ramon Valley C+ B- +
Santa Clara D+ D+ same
South San Francisco C C+ +
West Contra Costa D D- -
To see the complete report cards, visit http://reportcards.edtrustwest.org.
For more information about Contra Costa County grades, read the On Assignment blog at www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment.