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Alhambra's low-income students perform well despite disadvantages, says report

Low-income students from the Alhambra Unified School District are faring well academically, according to one report that compared the state's largest school districts. The report ranked AUSD as a top 10 district in the "performance levels of low-income students" category." But despite the recognition, it ranked poorly in other categories, in particular "college readiness" and "achievement gap."

The Education Trust-West, a statewide educational advocacy organization, ranked AUSD eighth out of 146 of California’s largest school districts, all of which have at least 5000 students, for low-income student performance. Among districts with 60 percent or more of its students on free or reduced-price lunch,  AUSD ranked first for low-income student performance. 

“When I pulled up the report card, I thought ‘Wow, low-income students are performing pretty well in Alhambra,” said Lindsay Stuart, data and policy analyst for the Education Trust-West.The rankings were based on a district’s Academic Performance Index (API). According to the California Department of Education’s website, “The API is a single number, ranging from a low of 200 to a high of 1000, which reflects a school’s performance level, based on the results of statewide testing.”

AUSD, with an API score of 799 among low-income students, tied for the eighth spot with Redondo Beach and Rocklin Unified in the "performance levels among low-income students" category.

The Education Trust West’s April report ranked the 146 largest unified school districts in California on four key indicators – performance, improvement, college readiness and achievement gaps – to see how they best serve African American, Latino and low-income students. Performance is measured by how well low-income and minority students scored on state tests, as measured by API scores. The improvement category illustrated how students improved over a five-year period (also dictated by API). College readiness measured the number of  Latino and African American students that have completed the basic coursework required for admission at University of California and California State universities. Achievement gaps demonstrated how Latino and African American students performed compared to white students.After examining these indicators, the Education Trust-West gave each school district a letter grade. AUSD received an overall grade of “C-” based on its scores in performance, improvement, gaps and achievement.

Letter grades were also given for the separate indicators. AUSD received a “C” on performance for students of color. The district, which is 42 percent Latino and one percent African American, is ranked 84 out of 146 for minority student performance.

The district received a “D” for college readiness amongst students of color. Many of Alhambra's students have not completed the basic coursework, called A-G requirements, needed for UC and CSU admission.

A "D" was given for the size of the performance gap between Latino and white students. AUSD ranked 76 out of 146 for its achievement gap between Latino and white students. An achievement gap for African-American students is not available due to the low level of African-American students enrolled in Alhambra Unified.

A bright spot for AUSD was the "B" grade given for performance among low-income students. Stuart added that the district was one API point away from receiving an "A."

“It is very likely, since they are right on that 800 score cutoff for an 'A,' that they’ll go up to an 800, or an 801 or something even higher for the 2010-2011 school year,” Stuart said

According to Stuart, the report suggests that a district's size and demographics do not affect its overall grade.

 “When we looked at achievement across all of those indicators – performance, improvements, gaps and college readiness – we didn’t see that size or demographics had a relationship to their grades,” Stuart said. “Districts like Alhambra that serve a large proportion of students that are low-income and have large enrollment numbers, didn’t [have these factors] affect their overall grade.” The report, however suggests that size and demographics negatively influenced the performance of low-income students.According to the report, the top overall school districts are Lake Elsinore Unified in Riverside County, San Marcos Unified in San Diego County, and Clovis Unified in Fresno County. The Arcadia Unified School District was ranked first out of 146 for low-income student performance.

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1 thought on “Alhambra's low-income students perform well despite disadvantages, says report”

  1. The one thing missing from the report and this article is the word “Asian.” Do Asians qualify as students of color? How do poor Asians do compared with other poor kids in other ethnic groups.

    In Alhambra, I think white students (4% of the population) are a poor group to compare any other group against. If there is an achievement gap in Alhambra, it is between Asians as a whole and students in other ethnic/race groups. In addition, there likely is an achievement gap between different Asian sub-groups.

    Lastly, I’m not sure about the validity of any report that fails to identify students with mixed ethnic/race background. Even the U.S. Census has noted the growing number in our population who identify as belonging to multiple groups.