Racial and Ethnic Disparities in California Schools

EdSource’s John Fensterwald recently reported on a new multimeasure school rating system for California and the data it uncovers. The Oakland-based nonprofit GreatSchools analyzed these data and produced Searching for Opportunity, a fresh look at a stubbornly persistent problem: racial and ethnic gaps in student achievement in California schools.

Among the findings in Searching for Opportunity:

  • Only 2 percent of African-American students and 6 percent of Latino students attend what GreatSchools defines as high-performing and high-opportunity schools, compared with 59 percent of white and 73 percent of Asian students;
  • Only 22 percent of African-American and 19 percent of Latino students attend a school where the majority of graduates in their racial group has successfully passed courses making them eligible to attend a California State University and University of California campus, compared with 58 percent of white and 91 percent of Asian students;
  • Nearly three-quarters of African-American students and 58 percent of Latino students attend a school where students score on average below the 40th percentile on standardized tests in math, English language arts and science, compared with 5 percent of white students and 3 percent of Asian students.

“Disparities in academic outcomes mirror the disparities that exist in access to rigorous coursework and other academic opportunities,” the report said.

The report, said Samantha Brown Olivieri, GreatSchools vice president for growth and strategy, showed that many African-American and Latino students “not only lack access to good schools, but many students get a very different experience within the same schools” than their white and Asian student peers. Student suspension rates are higher for African-American students in particular, as is chronic absenteeism.

The report includes a list of 156 “Spotlight Schools” that GreatSchools said are providing the strongest outcomes: 41 for their results for African-American students and 126 for their results for Latino students; 11 schools rate high for both student groups. The report did look at income in the Spotlight Schools and found that in half of the schools, low-income students made up at least 55 percent of students, slightly below the state average. Brown Olivieri said that GreatSchools will study the schools to understand why they are successful.

While charter schools make up 12 percent of schools, they are 31 percent of the list’s high-performing schools. Half of the successful schools serving low-income students are also charters.

For more commentary, see https://edsource.org/2017/greatschools-report/582065

To read the GreatSchools report, see https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4cVOH4kCYXjWGxrVmNRc0tpdDlKOHZ0LTRZV2FobGtLTHhV/view