Keeping the Promise of Change in California’s Lowest Performing Schools


OAKLAND, CA (May 12, 2010)– According to a new report by The Education Trust—West,
Keeping the Promise of Change, California has thrown more than $265 million over the last six years at its bottom five percent of Title I schools in a series of unproductive “reform” initiatives.  These reforms have skimmed the surface of school improvement, while producing minimal gains for the thousands of African-American and Latino students trapped in drop-out factories throughout the state.  Now these schools and other low performers are eligible for tens of millions in new school improvement funding from Washington, D.C.

The California Department of Education will soon be flooded with proposals seeking funding from the federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) program.  The Obama administration has set aside $3.5 billion for states willing to identify and aggressively reform their chronically underperforming schools.

“Nearly six years and a quarter of a billion dollars later, the list of California’s lowest performing schools serving mostly students of color is ridiculously familiar.” said Arun Ramanathan, executive director of The Education Trust—West. “This cycle must end.  By rewarding federal funds to only those schools and districts that propose high-impact reforms such as placing the best teachers with the neediest students, we can prevent these new dollars from turning into another school reform money-pit.”

As the state releases its API rankings for schools this week, the tired excuses for why our lowest performing schools cannot improve will surface as well.  Our neediest children and their communities will once again be blamed for school failure. Then, in what is sadly becoming an annual ritual, the same old set of reform strategies will follow— deferring accountability for how well our students have been previously served.

New federal funds offer California another chance to create opportunities for all students to excel in the great neighborhood schools that communities want.  The Education Trust—West calls on state education leaders to establish a rigorous application process for these dollars and turn down applications that recycle failed school-improvement strategies from the past.

“The report shows how more money alone for the most underperforming schools has not sufficiently spurred the improvement in student achievement that the funds were intended to generate,” added Veronica Melvin, executive director of the Alliance for a Better Community (ABC), a coalition of leading organizations and civic leaders promoting equity for Latinos.  “The study forecasts that emerging federal funding and policy ‘turnaround’ efforts will experience the same meager outcomes unless higher standards for meaningful school transformation are advanced.”

The full report is available online at:


 About The Education Trust—West

The Education Trust—West works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, kindergarten through college, and to forever close the achievement gaps separating low-income students and students of color from other youth. Our basic tenet is this— All children will learn at high levels when they are taught to high levels. 

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Karla Fernandez

Communications Manager

Karla Fernandez (she/her/hers) joins Ed Trust–West as a Communications Manager with over 11 years of experience advancing social impact initiatives.

Karla started her career as a teacher at Chicago Public Schools and UIC College Prep. After teaching, Karla joined United Friends of the Children to support LA County’s youth in foster care as a college counselor. Through Leadership for Educational Equity, Karla also served as a Policy Advisor Fellow for the office of a Los Angeles Unified School Board Member. She solidified her interests in policy analysis and quantitative research during her time with the Price Center for Social Innovation, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, and the USC Presidential Working Group on Sustainability. Before joining The Education Trust–West, Karla was the Associate Director for the Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) Collaborative, a network of nonprofits advocating for communities in SELA.

Karla holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, a Master of Public Policy from the USC Price School of Public Policy, and a Graduate Certificate in Policy Advocacy from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Karla is based out of southern California and is passionate about using data analysis, communications, and digital strategies for policy advocacy and social justice efforts.