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Latinos and Blacks Struggle in Silicon Valley Districts, Report Says

A pro-charter parent advocacy group in California's high-tech epicenter says some of the highest-achieving school systems in Silicon Valley are failing when it comes to preparing Latino and African-American students for college.

In a newly published report, the achievement gaps highlighted by the group known as Innovate Public Schools are stark.

In the Sunnyvale Elementary district, 10 percent of Latino students are proficient in algebra by the 8th grade—a critical predictor of college success—while 82 percent of Asian students are. At 42 percent, Latinos comprise the largest share of the student body, with Asians making up the next largest group at 22 percent. Across San Mateo and Santa Clara counties—two jurisdictions that are home to technology titans and some of the highest-paying jobs in California—20 percent of Latinos and 22 percent of African-Americans graduate with passing grades in all the courses that are required to even be considered for admission to the state's two big public university systems. For Asians, that figure is 73 percent and for whites, 53 percent.

Across San Mateo County public high schools in 2012, just 20 African-American males graduated with the credits needed to enter a state university last fall, according to the report.

The group used publicly available achievement data from the California Department of Education in its report titled, "Broken Promises: The Children Left Behind in Silicon Valley Schools." It especially emphasizes the lagging achievement of Latino students and demographic imperative to raise their performance. Latinos comprise more than half of California's public K-12 enrollment.

The group also includes its list of top elementary, middle, and high schools in the Silicon Valley region for Latinos, a good number of them charters. One of the high schools listed, Abraham Lincoln in San Jose Unified, is one I wrote about years ago for being on the leading edge of high schools in the state that required all students to complete the rigorous University of California's minimum subject-area requirements for freshman admissions—a series of core academic courses and electives commonly called the A-G sequence.

Notably, Linda Murray, a former superintendent of San Jose Unified (she oversaw the district's move to ramp up the rigor of high school curriculum) who later worked at Education Trust-West, helped write the report and is the "superintendent in residence" at Innovate Public Schools. The still-new advocacy organization, launched last fall, is funded by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, which promotes charter schools and parental choice. (The Walton Family Foundation supports Education Week's coverage of parent-empowerment issues.)

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