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LAUSD's Report Card: Below Average. Surprised?

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Photo by billaday via Flickr


Photo by billaday via Flickr
Last Thursday the California Department of Education released their 2008 rankings for schools and districts using the Academic Performance Index (API) test scores as their base criteria, as well as "how they perform compared to schools having similar demographics," according to the Daily News. Bringing up the bottom is our own Los Angeles Unified School District. "While test scores across the district are on the rise among students of all ages and ethnic backgrounds, the district's average score of 681 was still 60 points below the state average," and of "10 large, urban districts in the state, only Oakland Unified School District ranked below LAUSD."

Not surprisingly, Superintendent Ramon Cortines balked at the results, saying that the district is too large to compare to others, and that the best measure of district-level achievement is the progress from previous years to now. And not all the LAUSD schools were low-ranking when considered individually:

[S]everal schools in LAUSD managed to land in the top rankings. In the San Fernando Valley, half of all elementary schools scored above the state average as did one-third of all middle schools and a quarter of all high schools. Only seven LAUSD schools - or about 1 percent of the total - achieved the highest ranking of 10 for both the statewide and the similar schools rankings, which groups schools demographically.

Four of the seven schools were in the San Fernando Valley. They were Encino and Woodland Hills Elementary, Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies and High Tech High school.

Although the focus on test scores can't account for other forms of achievement or effort, funding for schools depends upon successful scores, and funding is at the crux of the LAUSD's current troubles. Despite a healthy influx of federal stimulus funds, the massive district still must implement detrimental and much-protested budget cuts and layoffs, all of which have the potential to make next year's rankings even more dismal.
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State Superintendent Jack O'Connell agrees that budget cuts for education have dire consequences: "It doesn't take much to realize what that means for education. Class size will go up, there will be fewer nurses, librarians, counselors, fewer art classes, career tech. ... School leaders will be doing all they can just to keep the lights on and doors open."