For the first time in six years, California names its lowest-performing schools — & here are the 110 district and charter schools in LAUSD that require intervention
Esmeralda Fabián Romero | February 4, 2019
*Updated Feb. 5
For the first time in six years, California has released the names of its lowest-performing schools.
The 780 schools are in the bottom 5 percent of public K-12 schools as measured by the state’s new accountability tool, the California School Dashboard, and require “comprehensive school improvement.”
The state identified a total of 1,640 schools that need comprehensive or targeted assistance because they are struggling to adequately serve students. They represent 16.5 percent of all California public schools.
L.A. Unified has 110 schools that require assistance; 56 of those are in the bottom 5 percent of schools in L.A. Unified.
The names of the schools can be found in spreadsheets included with California Department of Education letters sent last Thursday to district superintendents. It is the first time the state has identified its lowest-performing schools since the old API scores that measured student achievement were discontinued in 2013.
The federal law known as ESSA, the Every Student Succeeds Act, requires that states identify the bottom 5 percent of schools — the lowest-performing schools — and additionally identify schools with one or more groups of students whose performance meets the criteria for “lowest performing.” Schools that have been flagged for targeted support won’t be eligible for that support until the 2020-21 school year.
“The state was really quiet in releasing this list of schools and there are no clear guidelines of how parents are supposed to be engaged in the process of improving those schools,” said Carrie Hahnel, co-executive director of the state advocacy organization EdTrust-West. “For parents who have children in one of those schools, I’d like to know when they will be notified, will they be invited to share ideas about how to improve the school, how to get the school to a better place? Those things are unclear at this point.”
She said school administrators have been notified that their schools are on the list, but she is concerned if parents “would have easy access to this information.”
“We are glad to see that aspect of federal law take shape here in California. But data doesn’t close opportunity gaps. People have to do that, so we now need people to take action.”
This is a breakdown by the California Department of Education of the state’s lowest-performing schools:
- A total of 1,640 schools were identified for assistance, representing 16.5 percent of all California public schools
- 300 of these schools are identified for having a graduation rate under 67 percent. Of these, 223 are alternative schools, such as court schools, community day schools and continuation schools
- 481 of these schools are identified for overall low performance
- 859 of these schools are identified for low student group performance
- Of the 1,640 schools identified for assistance, 1,471 are non-charters and 169 — or 11.5 percent — are charters
- Of the non-charter schools, 81.3 percent are located within districts and/or county offices of education that are already receiving assistance under California’s state system of support.
LOS ANGELES SCHOOLS
Of the 110 schools identified for improvement in Los Angeles Unified, 88 are district schools, serving about 44,200 students, according to a district spokeswoman. The other 22 — or 20 percent — are independent charters.
“These identified schools will receive supplemental supports to meet the needs and accelerate achievement for students,” the district spokeswoman said by email. “Additional resources will be allocated to align with the schools’ identified need.”
Of the 110 L.A. schools, Hahnel said, at least two dozen need comprehensive support. “That means overall these schools are underserving students severely.”
Hahnel noted that as the state’s largest school district, L.A. Unified has the highest number of schools on the list, but “there are other school districts that have a larger proportion of schools on the list.”
“But still, 110 schools that need additional support is a lot of schools. And I would imagine that overwhelmingly these schools serve students of color and low income,” she said. “These are the schools that are really struggling in the California School Dashboard’s indicators.”
Seth Litt, executive director of Parent Revolution, an L.A.-based parent advocacy group, said he was hoping the state would have done a much better job providing information that would be “accurate, comprehensive and actionable.” He believes the way it was released makes it hard to access for districts and the public in general.
The lists must be accessed through the state Department of Education’s website in the specialized programs section; click the first link in the database section to download the spreadsheet with the list of schools. Then the information can be filtered by district or county.
Here is the list of the 110 schools in L.A. Unified that require support:
Litt also said it was very disappointing that the list includes opportunity schools, which offer students personalized pathways to graduation and provide alternatives to the traditional school setting, as well as special education schools. When these schools are included, it means “we get a much smaller list of standard elementary, middle and high schools on the comprehensive support list,” he said. “If you see that list, maybe half of the high schools on that list are opportunity high schools.”
Of the 110 schools in L.A., 22 are district high schools and six are charter high schools.
Litt said because the list does not factor in student growth, it “does not provide an accurate and sufficient window” and L.A. Unified should not limit its school improvement efforts to just those schools.
“It would be disappointing if LAUSD would come up with a plan for just of the lowest 5 percent of schools and then to think that it is a sufficient plan to improve student outcomes in L.A.,” Litt said. “We expect the district to do a whole lot more, with a much more comprehensive approach for all the schools in the district.”
Last year, Parent Revolution supported a group of parents who demanded the district develop improvement plans for low-performing schools. It also released a report showing that 234 L.A. Unified schools fell in the bottom two levels — orange or red — for both English and math on the dashboard and that many of the existing school improvement plans had been approved by the school board despite being incomplete. They also showed that there was little district oversight of school improvement plans.
Hahnel said there’s a big concern that no new improvement plans will be developed for the schools beyond the state-required Local Control Accountability Plans.
Hahnel explained that currently school districts are only required to release their plans for improving student achievement during the LCAP process each spring. “I understand there isn’t additional planning oversight that’s put on top of that. That’s something that I’d like to press harder at the state level and I think parents should press on their school districts and find out what additional plan is going to happen,” she said.
“There are a lot of questions whether any real accountability and oversight are going to happen, even if new plans are going to be developed in the first place.”
She said federal law does require that the state review and approve the improvement plans for schools on the list. “I seriously question whether the state has the capacity and the ability to review 780 improvement plans,” she said. “We think the state will push that to the counties through the LCAP process, and that’s already a heavily burdened process.”
And that would make it even harder on parents, she said.
“In this era of local control, there’s so much autonomy and fewer requirements that I think it is very difficult for parents to understand their options or how to engage.”
*This article has been updated to correct the number of state schools identified for comprehensive and targeted assistance, and to add more state data.