Press Release

2011 Report Cards highlight top performers & unique regional trends; Southern California districts
out-performing Northern California districts

OAKLAND, CA (March 22, 2012) Today, The Education Trust—West releases its latest annual report cards for California’s 147 largest unified school districts revealing how well they are serving their Latino, African-American, and low-income students.  The grades and ranks for each of these districts for the 2010-2011 school year are posted on The Education Trust—West’s “District Report Cards” website at

“Last year, thousands of parents and community groups across California used our district report cards to learn how their districts stacked up against the state’s top performers for underserved students,” said Dr. Arun Ramanathan, Executive Director of The Education Trust—West, a statewide education advocacy organization that works to close gaps in achievement and opportunity for students of color and students in poverty.  “Once again, the report cards reveal the important role that districts play in focusing attention on their highest need students and improving results.”

To create the report cards, The Education Trust—West uses publically available data to assign “A-F” letter grades and rankings to each of the state’s largest, unified districts on four key indicators: Performance, Improvement, Achievement Gaps, and College-Readiness. These data together reveal how well each district’s low-income, African-American, and Latino students are faring.

2010 was the first year that grades were assigned. In 2011, most districts maintained the same grades overall and across indicators. Of those districts who did receive a new overall grade, twice as many improved as compared with those that slid backward. Overall, “A” grades are found in each indicator category and in high-poverty and low-poverty districts alike, dispelling the myth that poverty and low performance are inexorably connected. Four of the top ten overall districts serve large numbers of low-income students and students of color. Corona-Norco Unified, Lake Elsinore Unified, Covina-Valley Unified and Baldwin Park Unified are over 40 percent low-income, and each serves a student population that is over 55 percent African-American or Latino. By contrast, many wealthier and less diverse districts fall to the bottom of our rankings.

This year’s district report cards also reveal some unique geographic trends.  Southern California districts tend to achieve better outcomes among their African-American, Latino, and low-income students than Northern California districts.  Seventy-two percent of districts in Northern California, for example, earn an overall grade of “D.” Meanwhile, just 15 percent of districts in Southern California earn overall “D” grades.  While districts in the Central Valley and Central Coast regions receive “Bs,” as do districts in the Inland Empire, Los Angeles County, and Southern California Counties (Orange and San Diego), the highest grade in the San Francisco Bay Area and Greater Sacramento region is a “C+.”

When compared to grades from last year, there were some notable gainers on the overall grades and each of the four indicators of performance:

  • For overall grades, Covina-Valley Unified (Los Angeles County) and Corona-Norco Unified (Riverside County) dramatically improved, with both rising to a “B-” this year from a “C” last year.
  • On the overall Performance indicator, low-income students in Washington Unified (Sacramento County) posted the largest API gain of 32 points.
  • On the Improvement indicator, students of color and low-income students in Lake Elsinore Unified (Riverside County) posted five-year gains of 138 and 151 API points, respectively, far exceeding California’s overall API gain of 58 points.  Similarly, Latino and low-income students in Coachella Valley Unified (Riverside County) also posted above-average five-year gains of 109 and 98 API points, respectively. In Baldwin Park Unified (Los Angeles County), Latino students gained 87 API points and low-income students gained 86 points over five years.
  • On the Achievement Gaps indicator, Sanger Unified’s (Fresno County) African-American students narrowed the gap with their white peers by 46 API points – the only A in the state for this indicator.
  • On the College Readiness indicator, Los Angeles Unified (Los Angeles County) and Oakland Unified (Alameda County)get high marks for working to increase the percentage of students of color and low income students who complete the A-G course requirements and graduate from high school with true college and career options.

“When we visited high performing, high-poverty districts, we found that while there was no ‘silver bullet’ for this work, there are consistent strategies,” said Dr. Jeannette LaFors, Director of Practice at The Education Trust—West. “District leaders, from superintendents to board members, are working with educators to create a culture of high expectations, data-based decision making, and high-quality instruction, while fully engaging students and parents as partners. Every district should use these strategies to improve student results and raise their grades,” she concluded.

A summary of the findings is available in the latest edition of ETW’s Equity Alert. To read more, click here.

The report cards are available online at:

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About The Education Trust—West

The Education Trust—West works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-k through college. We expose opportunity and achievement gaps that separate students of color and low-income students from other youth, and we identify and advocate for the strategies that will forever close those gaps.