The California Department of Education has released a list of the lowest-performing schools in the state, including several in the Fresno area, for the first time in four years.
The 781 schools on the list are in need of “Comprehensive Support and Improvement” based on one of two criteria: first, schools whose graduation rate is less than 67 percent over two years, or second, schools receiving Title I funds whose performance is low based on data from the California School Dashboard. At Fresno Unified, 12 schools are on the CSI list.
Another list released by the state shows an additional 858 schools where specific subsets of students fall behind. At 25 Fresno Unified schools, for example, students with disabilities underperform, while at an additional seven district schools, African-American students underperform, leaving the schools eligible for “Additional Targeted Support and Improvement.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Fresno Bee
“The students with disabilities category is complicated. But students who can perform at a high level are sometimes held back because of a lack of opportunity,” Carrie Hahnel of the Education Trust-West said. “Early identification and early literacy intervention can help students achieve.”
The state is required to identify schools in need of support by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, but what that support looks like will be determined at the local level.
Hahnel said the state doesn’t have to notify parents about their child’s school’s status on the list, which could hamper efforts to come up with solutions.
“It’s going to be up to districts to figure out how to notify or engage families,” Hahnel said. “We believe that parents can be really great partners in identifying what needs to be done at a school.”
Districts can also start looking at how to shift their practices for better results, Hahnel said, which could include unconscious bias training or even rescheduling classes to better accommodate targeted groups.
“For example, English learners are in English development courses that are held at the same time as the college prep courses are offered,” Hahnel said. “So they don’t have a chance to take those.”
Ultimately California needs to channel more funds to districts to help them address lingering inequities, according to Hahnel.
“All schools need significantly more resources,” Hahnel said. “It could start by addressing pension obligations that are pulling money away from the classrooms.”
Fresno Teachers Association president Manuel Bonilla said that teachers have begun to discuss ways to improve outcomes for students with special needs via the next round of bargaining sessions. On the docket is lower class sizes, workloads and caseloads, all of which will be discussed at an SPED Town Hall on Feb. 20.
“That’s going to be our big push. We want to focus on things that will move the needle, and that’s hard to do with large class sizes, but also with the amount of time that we spend being asked to do other things,” Bonilla said.
Bonilla said that in addition to efforts by the district and the state, more collaboration with local agencies could help address issues like absenteeism.
“There is no silver bullet,” Bonilla said. “There’s just listening to people that spend the most time with students.”