The typical student in Oakland Unified is further behind in 8th grade than they were in 3rd grade that’s according to the latest research from Stanford, covered in a recent NY Times article. You heard that right, the typical student in OUSD progresses 4.3 years academically in the 5 years between 3rd and 8th grade, so while they are roughly a year behind in 3rd grade, they are roughly 2 years behind in 8th grade.
The encouraging thing about the data is that there is such wide variation, even within California. Some districts make more than 5 years growth, others less. So some things are working in some places and some things are not working in others.
Despite the dismal outcomes, there is hope. In Fremont, students gained 5.6 years over the 5 year span, and in Chicago it was 6 years. So poverty is not destiny, but zip codes matter, and so do the decisions of districts.
Let’s look at the study, from the Times
The data, based on some 300 million elementary-school test scores across more than 11,000 school districts, tweaks conventional wisdom in many ways. Some urban and Southern districts are doing better than data typically suggests. Some wealthy ones don’t look that effective. Many poor school systems do.
This picture, and Chicago’s place in it, defy how we typically think about wealth and education in America. It’s true that children in prosperous districts tend to test well, while children in poorer districts on average score lower. But in this analysis, which measures how scores grow as student cohorts move through school, the Stanford researcher Sean Reardon argues that it’s possible to separate some of the advantages of socioeconomics from what’s actually happening in schools.
How is Oakland Doing?
The researchers graphed 11,000 districts based on test score growth and wealth, to give a fairer picture of the district effects. Here is Oakland Unified in 3rd grade
And Oakland Unified in 8th grade
And the comparison of growth
Click around some and look other districts, while Oakland Unified produced 4.3 years of growth in 5 years, West Contra Costa was at 4.6 years, Fresno and Long Beach were at 4.7 years.
And yes this is based on test scores which is an imperfect measure, but try telling that to mom who is seeing her child’s literacy skills decrease (as measured by test scores) compared to peers in nearby districts.
What is lost in the budget crisis?
The school board meetings are rightly spending significant time on the budget. But I am hearing a hardly a peep about how our students are doing, what we are doing to accelerate learning, or develop our programs that are showing real progress.
Our students and families can’t have their academic careers put in a back seat, as the district is consumed with its own messes. We have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time, which means both addressing our fiscal crisis and our academic crisis, solving either one without the other is a hollow victory.