After comparing their school test scores with statewide results you’d probably agree Carlsbad’s 5th graders, like their Lake Wobegone classmates, are all above average
When No Child Left Behind was signed into law in 2002 it was supposed
to produce 100 percent grade level proficiency in English and math for
all students by 2014. But to this date only 59 percent of California 5th
graders have reached proficiency in English, only 63 percent in math.
By comparison, 79 percent of Carlsbad’s 5th graders are proficient in
English and 80 percent in math.
But the greater concern about these scores is the lingering
achievement gap separating students by family income. Californian’s
should care because 59 percent of the state’s 5th graders come from low
income families. Only 47 percent of them are proficient in English, 55
percent in math. That doesn’t bode well for the state’s future
workforce, which will need higher level skills than today’s workers.
23 percent of Carlsbad 5th graders are economically disadvantaged.
Although more are grade level proficient at 59 percent in English, 58
percent in math, the test score gap separating them from their more
well-to-do classmates is greater than it is statewide. And the city’s
abundance of high tech companies will demand an even better trained
The demand for school reform has amounted mostly to bad-mouthing
teacher unions, abandoning our historic commitment to public education,
and the rise of charter schools that, with a few notable exceptions,
show no better learning results but are preferred by parents searching
for socially compatible safe havens for their children.
I spoke last week with Valin Brown, CEO and President of the Board of
The Carlsbad Educational Foundation. CEF helps raise private support to
contribute about $500k each year for programs that help promote
educational excellence for the 11,000 students in the Carlsbad School
District. The foundation has a special interest in music education,
“hands-on” science education, and educational innovation that takes
learning out of the classroom and into the community.
While CEF gets about $350k of its in revenue annually from private
donors and corporate grants, its primary source of revenue comes from
tuition and fees generated by its Kids Care and Summer Academy programs.
Both show potential for enhancing school reform and closing the
family-income achievement gap. Unfortunately, neither has the funding to
expand its reach to more families who might benefit from them.
Kids Care is a high-quality, licensed child care and educational
enrichment program, providing safe, convenient, before and after school
care for kindergarten through 5th grade students. It’s available in all 9
elementary schools. Tuition ranges from $120 to $495 per month, which
puts it beyond the reach of many low income families.
Brown told me some financial aid is available and that 120 of the 700
currently enrolled students are funded entirely by California’s After
School Enrichment and Safety (ASES) grant program. Research has shown
before and after school programs can have a substantially positive
effect on classroom success. Teachers often speak of their frustration
trying to overcome in their limited classroom time the obstacles
students face daily outside the classroom.
There are about 2,000 students in Carlsbad schools classified as
economically disadvantaged. More access to CEF’s Kids Care could make a
big difference in their learning.
The other CEF program that could be expanded to help this student
population is the Carlsbad Summer Academy, which enables students in
grades 9 through 12 to accelerate their high school progress, allowing
them to complete graduation requirements early and prepare for college
entrance tests. Brown explained its Summer Academy does not do “catch
up” classes because remediation has always been the responsibility of
Unfortunately, budget cuts hurt low income students most. But I don’t
blame CEF for its reluctance to move into remediation and let taxpayers
off the hook.
So, where does that leave school reform in a city where all the kids
are “above average?” Until we begin to care as much for the ones being
left behind as we do for those at the head of the class, I don’t see
much hope. Whether its willingness to pay higher taxes or to give to
private foundations, that’s where you’ll find our priorities, as well as
the future of our economy.