Last week the Santa Clara Unified School Board accepted “school annual report cards” (SARC) – a state-required exhaustive annual report that each school prepares covering a wide variety of topics including facilities, finances, student demographics, and, of course, standardized test scores and annual progress.
While the district’s demographics are similar to Campbell’s, SCUSD appears to be behind Campbell in test scores. However, Campbell Union School District is only elementary and middle schools. SCUSD can’t be compared to neighboring Cupertino because the student population’s demographics are profoundly different from Santa Clara’s.
SCUSD’s average expenditure per student is $5,282. That’s very close to the state average of $5,455. In comparison to neighboring districts Cupertino spends considerably more per student – $7,375 – whereas Campbell spends considerably less – $4,180.
- Santa Clara’s average teacher salary is $66,052,slightly less than the state average of $68,488. By comparison, Campbell’s average salary is slightly more – $67,46 – while Cupertino’s average is 5 percent higher – $69,624.
- In the most important metric, student performance, SCUSD comes out better than state average, but slightly behind Campbell. Predictably, Cupertino chalks up very high scores on student performance.
In fact, at the district level you can predict the percent of students performing at “proficiency” – meeting or exceeding state standards. Generally, it’s slightly more than inverse of the proportion of the student body that’s economically disadvantaged – i.e. qualify for subsidized or free lunch.
However, on a micro level, some Santa Clara schools buck the trend.
For example, George Mayne Elementary, with 74 percent of its students eligible for free or subsidized lunches, nonetheless achieves 60 percent proficiency in English and 72 percent proficiency in math.
Bracher Elementary, with 67 percent of its students considered economically disadvantaged, achieves 74 percent proficiency in English and 80 percent proficiency in math.
And Cabrillo Middle School, with 84 percent of its students economically disadvantaged, still has 50 percent of its students at grade level in English and 44 percent at grade level in math.
But these numbers don’t provide more than a glimpse into the formidable job that SCUSD schools are doing. For example, SCUSD goes the extra mile to serve high school students who would likely drop out of school. The district does this through two alternative high schools, New Valley and Wilson. In these cases, the key indicator is student improvement.
New Valley High School provides an alternative educational environment for students 16 years and older who don’t have enough units to graduate from a conventional high school, or who aren’t succeeding in a conventional high school.
Wilson serves students from the exceptionally gifted to the most profoundly challenged; from talented artists and athletes to the learning disabled, pregnant, chronically ill, homeless, and young people supporting families.
The value of these highly individualized programs shows in student achievement increases of over 30 percent in the last year. But if you just looked at test scores, you’d miss this entirely.
Check out school report cards at www.santaclarausd.org/documents.cfm?id=1329. For more about the correlation between test scores and family income, check out the Weekly’s Oct 2012 story, “SCUSD Doesn’t Have an Achievement Gap: America Does,” at www.santaclaraweekly.com/2012/Issue-42/scusd_doesnt_have_an_achievement_gap_america_does.html.
No state is more test-happy than California. But it’s questionable what real value Californians are getting from their obsession with testing. The state gets a C in most categories from Education Week’s (www.edweek.org) 2013 state education report card. However, California achieved an “A” in one area: standards and assessments.