Monday, June 01, 2009

O.C. Register Ranks 64 High Schools

Sunday, May 31st, the Orange County Register published another in a series of articles on education in Orange County. This time, in a group of articles written by Fermin Leal and Scott Martindale, it ranked 64 comprehensive diverse high schools from 15 school districts using a variety of measurements. I'm not going to try to paraphrase the article(s) but you can begin reading them HERE.

The top ten
high schools listed in this study were, in order:
1 - Oxford Academy, Cypress(Anaheim Unified District)
2 - Troy High, Fullerton
3 - Northwood High, Irvine

4 - University High, Irvine
5 - Los Alamitos High, Los Alamitos

6 - O.C. High School of the Arts, Santa Ana
7 - Sunny Hills High, Fullerton
8 - Edison High, Huntingt
on Beach
9 - Middle College High, Santa Ana
Beach High, Laguna Beach


To pique your interest I will tell you that, based on the rankings provided in this
series, of the 15 school districts listed, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District ranked fourteenth, just ahead of Santa Ana.


The four high schools in the Newport-Mesa District were ranked as follows out of the
64 schools in this study:
Corona Del Mar - 16
Newport Harbor - 42
Estancia - 58
Costa Mesa - 60


Only four high schools in Santa Ana finished lower than Costa Mesa High School, with Orange High School sandwiched between Estancia and Costa Mesa.


The articles that can be found beginning at the link above provide the explanation of how these ra
nkings were compiled and explain in great detail how various elements were weighted when calculating the rankings. I encourage you to go to that link and read through the articles.

It will not surprise me at all if some in our community come completely unglued at these numbers. While I don't spend a lot of time dwelling on school district issues, I do pay attention. These numbers do not surprise me. The fact that Corona del Mar is ranked high and the
other three high schools are ranked progressively lower the further they get from the Back Bay doesn't surprise me. I'm not happy about it, but I'm not surprised.


You can read more about each of the schools rankings, including those schools not in this particular study HERE. I could not find anything that tells us why 30 schools, including Back Bay High, Orange Coast Middle College High and Early College High, were excluded from the study, but one must assume they didn't meet the definition of "comprehensive diverse high schools".

I know some of you regular readers do spend a big part of your lives immersed in school district issues. I hope you will take the time to read the articles, then give me your opinions. I'll look forward to them.



Anonymous rob dickson said...

Geoof, I think there is good reason for some to come unglued, and it is high time for us to all have an honest dicussion about how socioeconomic factors impact school performance. If we refuse to talk about REALITY because of politically correct BS, we do everyone a disservice.

There is a direct correlation between socioeconomic factors and school performance, just look at Sanat Ana and the underperforming schools in Costa Mesa, and we all need to talk about it. If we don't, and work on realistic solutions that will help lift our schools out of the academic performance cellar, we have effectively abandoned the kids, regardless of their socioeconomic background.

Do we as a community really want to do that? Are we too timid or politically correct to address reality?

6/01/2009 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger Humberto said...

Thanks for posting this information. I, like a few in the county, only read the OC Register when I stop by a Starbucks coffee shop. I totally agree with Mr. Dickson, there is a positive correlation between socioeconomic factors and poor performance. I have a daughter, who in a year will be joining a HS in Costa Mesa, and I'm concern about the latest data. It doesn't look good. I´m sure some irrational voices coming from the north will make an ethnic argument about this. Such arguments don't help us face this sad reality. It's a complicated issue, and unfortunately with our state budget going down the drain, our schools will have less money, less human resources, less ..., to handle the problem. Still, we should be able to engage in a healthy and constructive discussion.

6/01/2009 12:47:00 PM  
Anonymous rob dickson said...

Dr. Caspa,

I agree that some will make this into a purely ethnic issue, which won't help a damn thing. The students still go to school every day, regardless of skin color. I don't think throwing more money at the problem will help - this is a long-term issue that has persisted through fiscal ups and downs.

Teachers, parents and students need to take school seriously. Kids who don't speak or read English will fail, plain and simple. Focus resources on getting these kids proficient in English immediately. Perhaps look to the success of the American Indian Charter schools, as reported in the LA Times this weekend. Strip away BS, teach the basics, emphasize discipline and get kids paying attention to succeeding in school.

If you look at successful schools, the focus is on achievement, not excuses. Intelliegnce is colorblind, and I'm certain there are plenty of extremely bright kids at all the lower-performing schools. If we can just get the adults to stop making excuses, perhaps we can turn schools around. At the American Indian Charter Schools, the kids are all from terrible socioeconomic backgrounds, yet they score at the VERY TOP of the API. It is obviously NOT an issue of ethnicity, but one of priorities.

Simplistic, I know, but there has to be a starting point somewhere!

6/01/2009 02:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Byron de Arakal said...

Socioeconomic realities are a significant determinant of local school performance. But they do not, in and of themselves, preclude acadamic excellence and scholastic performance. Both my parents were public educators. My dad was a district superintendent and, for a time, in a district with a socioeconomic demographic similar to CM's Westside. He saw first hand that socioeconomic conditions do not have to impact academic excellence in the local schools PROVIDED there is a "culture" of academic excellence in the home. That comes from the parents. Rich or poor, students will excel if there are parents in the home who have an expectation of academic excellence from their children and who aren't afraid to kick a little ass when they aren't making the grade, so to speak.

6/01/2009 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger Chris McEvoy said...

Wow, I was not aware that our high schools are ranked so low compared to other high schools in the county.

When looking at how schools were scored, it was surprising how heavily weighted the standardized tests are.

Mr. Dickson you are correct that there is a correlation between socioeconomic background and performance. It does negatively effect students as well as motivate others to take full advantage of this educational opportunity. I believe from experience as a high school math teacher there are far too many factors that influence performance to focus on one or two.

You are also correct that students need to take their education more seriously. Unless they are intrinsically motivated many students do not understand how important an education is.

I think it is good that people talk about improving our educational system.

6/01/2009 09:52:00 PM  
Blogger mesa verde madman said...

Nice to the the Pilot and LA Times' coverage of this... oh, wait, they didn't mention it... sign of the Times (pun definitely intended).

6/02/2009 07:55:00 AM  
Blogger Bruce Krochman said...

Byron's observation:

"students will excel if there are parents in the home who have an expectation of academic excellence from their children and who aren't afraid to kick a little ass when they aren't making the grade"

Is a big factor, but as he points out, there is no one right answer to motivating kids to be academically successful that fits all students.

If you hang with friends that dismiss academics, peer pressure could be your biggest problem. If you have to hold down a job to help at home, time to study suffers. If you have no parent at home when you are home, who is there to oversee your meeting your homework requirements.

Being involved in the schools since my kids started in kindergarten, I have seen a broad range of influences affect student performance.

The bottom line in my mind is that a cultural expectation of success on the part of all the players is missing. Yes, even some (not all) teachers and administrators just don't expect much from certain students.

I will also tell you that discipline at the schools is all over the map. Even with high performing students I have seen disruptive behavior.

Add to that the fundamental problem of politicians and the voters mandating how educators deliver services and you have a pretty dysfunctional system all the way around.

6/02/2009 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Thanks to each of you for your thoughtful posts on this important issue.

mesa verde madman, don't be to tough on the Pilot or Times on this one - it was the Register's study. Sticky issue - reporting on "news" generated by your competition, particularly when it was an in-house study...

There is no easy solution to this problem. Sonora School has done a great job, but they're working with much younger kids who absorb language like a sponge. At the high school level you almost certainly have a contingent of English learners who may not be fluent in Spanish, much less English. It's a difficult hill to climb.

I know I'm preaching to the choir in the case of some of you who have personal experience with this.

I wrote to a person of my acquaintance who has some school board experience and asked for a review of the articles in the Register and for a reply. The first part of the response I received was, "Well educated parents produce high scoring children; poorly educated parents produce low scoring children."

My correspondent went on to say:

"If the Newport-Mesa "village" wanted to have all its kids do well, it would shift enough resources to the poor areas (read Costa Mesa) to bring the poor kids and their parents up to speed. However, there are at least two reasons why this doesn't happen:

* The people who pay the most into the school district's general fund (read Newport Beach residents) want their hard earned money to stay in their own little village; and
* There's a deep-seated "king of the mountain" attitude wired into all/most people. There's also the all-American ethos that one must pull oneself up by one's bootstraps. This leads to a survival of the fittest environment that those atop the mountain think is good for (you name it: society, the person, the world, the species, etc.).

Rob Dickson asks, "Are we too timid or politically correct to address reality?"

Humberto Caspa contends, "Still, we should be able to engage in a healthy and constructive discussion"

Rather, I think it's the old story of the powerful not being willing to give up power. If this is true, then no amount of shaming -- "too timid or p.c.;" "should be able to engage in a healthy and constructive discussion" -- will change the power structure a whit.

It's the golden rule: He who has the gold makes the rules."

As painful as that is to read, I fear it's all too true. Like many things in life, educating our children seems to be - in great part - a function of time and money. The teachers, kids and their parents must be willing to put in the time and the school district must be willing to spend the money.

6/02/2009 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger Humberto said...

Byron; you’re also correct. Some parents can have a decent or perhaps a high economic status --in the U.S., a family needs to make more or less 4OK to be considered middle class-- and yet their economic wealth won't guarantee their children’s success at school. What it does in this case, it just provides the basic environment for their children to be successful; that's it. A good friend of mine in Santa Ana (a wealthy immigrant, but not so well educated) decided to invest some money on her younger daughter's education. Last week, she received her HS diploma from great Matter Dei High, and she has already been accepted to many universities. By contrast, his older daughter stayed in a local public school, and today, unfortunately, she isn’t doing as well as her younger daughter. There are many issues involved in this case as you may see. One of them, of course, is school quality. Matter Dei, with a few exceptions, is better than any public school in the county. Two, is the environment that Matter Dei provides to a kid. If we express success in terms of economics, then we have a bunch of kids belonging to highly successful family settings. Since successful parents –like your parents Byron (please take it as an example only)— usually have decent academic backgrounds, they will usually offer support to their kids at home doing their homework or research assignments. My wife and I not only check but make sure that my daughter does her daily homework the right way. However, that’s not the case for some low-income parents and parents with little or no education background. And if we add the issue of language, then we have a horrible problem. So, in the end, some deep issues look like are rather located at home than at school. This is an area where such community groups as MIKA or Think Together, SOY or… can do so much for us. In some cases, (like SOY with Ms. Corona who is now attending UC Berkley) they have successfully balanced the lack of parental support at home. I think schools must learn to coordinate efforts with these organizations. As far as my friend, he used his money to fix his problems at home. Very few parents are able to do this.

6/02/2009 11:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Rob Dickson said...

Bruce, you hit the nail on the head:

The bottom line in my mind is that a cultural expectation of success on the part of all the players is missing. Yes, even some (not all) teachers and administrators just don't expect much from certain students.

Parents and peers do not place a high value on education, and that is compounded by well-meaning but ultimately wrong educators and policymakers who simply expect less from kids in traditionally underperforming socioeconomic categories.

I'm afraid that many feel that it is too complicated an issue, with too many varied factors contributing to the underperformance, and they just give up and expect less. Look at Santa Ana Unified - they recently LOWERED high school graduation requirements because too many were failing. Every single administrator responsible for that decision should be fired, in my opinion.

I urge you all to read the LA Times article on the American Indian Charter Schools. They take kids from traditionally underperforming socioeconomic categories and turn them into the states TOP performers, and their system is remarkably simple - demand more and accept no excuses.,0,7064053.story

6/02/2009 04:16:00 PM  
Anonymous State street dad said...

As a parent with high-achieving children at both TeWinkle and Estancia, I urge people to look at surveys such as the Register's with a skeptical eye.

Ranking schools based on criteria such as standardized test scores, number of AP classes, CIF athletic championships and playoff appearances (to cherry pick a few used by the Register and the company it uses to scour the data) doesn't provide the full picture of how successful any institution is.

Estancia and TeWinkle are far from perfect, but students from each school are learning and many are even thriving, as witnessed by an overflow crowd of 400 or so last night at the Downtown Community Center for the TeWinkle 8th grade awards night.

English language learners are advancing into mainstream and honors classes. Honors students are excelling, getting high SAT scores and moving on to elite universities (UCLA, UC Berkeley and Harvard to name a few). I could go on....

Public education in Costa Mesa (not to mention the state and the nation) is obviously a complicated issue and time doesn't permit me to make a full-fledged defense of the quality of education in Newport Mesa.

But I encourage anyone reading this with school-age children not to write off these schools because of poor ratings in a drive-by survey.

6/05/2009 08:49:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home