SAN DIEGO–The number of students classified as English learners in the Class of 2016 and who are on track to meet all “a-g” course requirements for high school graduation has doubled compared to 2014 data, according to new statistics from the San Diego Unified School District.
Data also reveal double-digit increases in other student sub-groups, including African American students, Hispanic students, and students receiving Special Education services.
“We are very happy to see such dramatic improvements for students in the space of a single year,” said Cindy Marten, Superintendent of San Diego Unified. “It is very exciting to see that the changes we’ve made systemically to help students meet a-g requirements made a difference not just for the Class of 2016, but even more so for the Class of 2017.”
The percentage of this year’s junior class considered on track for meeting the a-g requirements needed to graduate high school is up seven percentage points from the previous junior class cohort. Some student subgroups had even more dramatic gains.
“A year ago, nine percent of our English Learners were on-track to meet all a-g requirements as juniors. This year, 18 percent are on track. While still low, it means twice as many are ready entering the junior class,” said Marten. “Imagine doubling again next year, and the year thereafter. We are building momentum.”
Significant increases are also noted for other subgroups, compared to the previous junior class. Fifty-six percent of African American students in the class of 2017 are on track to meet all a-g requirements compared to 45 percent the previous year; an 11 point increase that was the highest growth among all subgroups. Fifty-two percent of Hispanic students are on track, compared to 44 percent a year ago.
Marten noted the data tell an important story when it comes to closing the achievement gap.
“If every student group were to accelerate at the same rate, we’d never close the achievement gap,” she said. “When you see subgroups increasing at a faster rate – like we are seeing with our African American students, our Hispanic students, and our English Learners – that’s how you begin to close the gap.”
The data are included in a district accountability update to the Board of Trustees entitled “Focus on Equity and Plan to Ensure Each and Every Student is On Track to Graduate.”
“A year ago, we took a very hard and critical look at the on-track status of the Class of 2016. This pushed us to make major changes to our Master Schedules in order to provide greater access to “a-g” coursework for all students and to put necessary interventions in place for students who were missing credits or off-track in some way,” said Cheryl Hibbeln, executive director of secondary schools. “We wanted to make sure that the San Diego way was one where we didn’t make any categorical presumptions about groups. We were going to look at all groups and support them in meeting this goal.”
The accountability update also includes findings from Alliance San Diego, a community empowerment organization which conducted focus group research with teachers, counselors, principals and parents in the district on the status of a-g on track rates and solicited recommendations for strategies to help students meet a-g requirements. The findings from the surveys, published in their study, “Career and College Preparedness in the 21st Century,” include recommendations for pursuing smaller class sizes at high school, offering after-school courses or extended school days, and pursuing and promoting online coursework to help students meet a-g requirements.
The organization praised the district for the work done to ensure all students are graduating career and college ready, and acknowledged that many of the survey recommendations are already being implemented.
“Let’s call the a-g requirement what it is: the tide that lifts all boats,” said Matt Yagyagan, Alliance San Diego development manager. “To see double-digit gains in subgroups and the gains achievement across the board is tremendous.”
“There is still work to be done, but we commend the district for rolling up its sleeves and doing the hard work. This is moving boulders to do whatever it takes to move this district forward,” he added.
Marten echoed the need for hard work to continue. “If we are truly going to deliver on the promise of public education for each and every student, we do indeed have a lot of hard work to do,” she said. “The data show that our high expectations for all students are being met and that we are on the right course to make even greater progress across all student groups.”
“San Diego Unified has been laser focused on realizing equity, access, and educational excellence for ALL students,” said Marne Foster, Board President. “I’m pleased to see positive movement and expect this trend to continue through our commitment to collective action with district leadership, school community and corporate partnerships.”