When it comes to educating Latino, African-American and low-income students, Bay Area school districts do at best a mediocre job, according to a report published Tuesday by an Oakland-based education advocacy group.
In Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa counties, seven districts earned a D-plus, the average for the four counties.
Six districts earned a D. San Jose Unified -- which has a 52 percent Latino and 3 percent black population -- was among them.
"Of course our ranking and our grade aren't where we'd like them to be for this population," said Traci Cook, district spokeswoman. The district, she added, is focusing on what it considers keys to student success at three levels: early literacy, algebra in middle school and advanced-placement and International Baccalaureate classes at high school.
Dublin, San Ramon Valley and South San Francisco districts posted the highest grades for the Bay Area: a C-plus. At the bottom of the 144 districts, San Francisco and West Contra Costa received a D-minus, followed by Oakland and San Juan in Sacramento -- both with Fs.
The report graded only unified school districts, which serve pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. The majority of California school districts cover either K-8 or high school and were excluded from the analysis.
Statewide, Palo Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles County and Rocklin in Placer County tied for first. Most Bay Area districts in the study either earned the same grade they did last year or declined. Among the exceptions, Dublin earned A's this year in performance of low-income students and black and Latino students. San Ramon did well in the same categories, as well as its graduation rates for black and Latino students. Other local districts that improved saw scores rise because more of their students completed the so-called A-to-G classes, which are those required for entrance to state universities.
The fourth annual report by the Education Trust-West based its grades on state performance data, including the 2013 Academic Performance Index, year-to-year improvement, racial achievement gaps, 2012 high school graduation rates and A-to-G completion.
While the report reinforces what another advocacy group, Innovate Public Schools of Mountain View, pointed out last year, on the failure of many "good" local school districts, it shows schools elsewhere in the state that are succeeding.
"It should never be considered an excuse that you're a poor-performing district because you have students from low-income families," said Jeannette LaFors, director of EdTrust's equity initiative. Schools elsewhere have proven that to be a myth, she said: "Students from any background can perform at high levels."
The highest scorers were in Southern California and the Central Valley, with just six districts statewide earning the top grade, a B. Ten statewide earned a B-minus.
The report awards grades for individual categories. San Ramon Valley, for instance, earned A's in achievement of both poor students and of black and Latino students. Pittsburg earned C's in those categories. But it improved in the achievement gap between white and Latino students, earning a B in that category.
"Although there is room for continued improvement," Pittsburg Unified School District Superintendent Linda Rondeau said, "the indicators show the district is moving significantly in a positive direction."
The online report also provides demographic data on percentages of foster youth, English-language learners and low-income students -- on whom districts are supposed to focus with additional state monies that began to flow in this year. The data, however, is not comprehensive. For example, it doesn't show information on Asian students, who make up 53 percent of the Fremont Unified District and whose scores the district uses in seeking to narrow the achievement gap.
The district earned a D in that category, but Superintendent James Morris said that the gap is narrowing as black and Latino students' achievement has exceeded the districtwide improvement rate. But "there still is a huge disparity" in achievement, he said. "It has to go at a much faster rate than what we've seen."
To read the Education Trust-West report card on schools, including a searchable database, go to http://reportcards.edtrustwest.org.
Contact Sharon Noguchi at 408-271-3775. Follow her at Twitter.com/NoguchiOnK12.
These scores indicate how well schools educate poor, black and Latino students. Grades are based on 2013 API scores, improvement, achievement gaps, graduation rates and A-to-G completion rates. Only unified districts were graded.
C-plus: Dublin, San Ramon Valley, South San Francisco
C: Gilroy, Castro Valley, Livermore Valley, Pleasanton
C-minus: Alameda City, Pittsburg
D-plus: Fremont, Milpitas, Morgan Hill, San Lorenzo, Palo Alto, Santa Clara, Berkeley
D: Antioch, Hayward, Mount Diablo, New Haven, San Jose and San Leandro.
D-minus: San Francisco, West Contra Costa