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Researchers Study Student Success Stories At San Diego Schools

The outside of the San Diego Unified School District Education Center is show...

Photo by Megan Wood / inewsource

Above: The outside of the San Diego Unified School District Education Center is shown on May 8, 2018.

Researchers are studying San Diego Unified School District and Chula Vista Elementary to find out what they’re doing right. This follows a report released by the Learning Policy Institute in May which found students of color tested higher than predicted and higher than students from similar backgrounds in other districts.

KPBS anchor Ebone Monet spoke to San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten about the research. Here are some highlights from the interview, which have been edited for clarity and length.

Q: What’s your reaction to the results from the Learning Policy Institute study?

A: We're really excited to see that report come out. Because when the first initial report came out, 100 and something positive outliers in the state, that was great and that's the report that just came out recently. But the one that's going to come out in August is by Learning Policy Institute researchers. Linda Darling-Hammond (the institute's president and CEO) says it's great that we have this bank of schools in the state that are beating the odds. Let's do an in-depth analysis on seven of the positive outlier districts that are beating the odds and they chose Chula Vista Elementary and San Diego Unified to kind of unpack how did we do that.

Q: You talk about the importance of pairing equity and excellence together. What does that mean at San Diego Unified?

A: Yes, some people like to go about it with where they're going to be excellent in some places and then have equity in other places. And when we defined equity in San Diego Unified, we talk about individual student needs. Equity means each and every student gets what he or she needs when they need it, in the way that they need it. And that looks different across the entire city. But we're committed to having excellent learning conditions all over the city.

What this report shows is that when students have a greater need, you need to give greater support. That's an investment that you make and it's a belief system that you have. Another simple way of saying it, is we expect our principals and our teachers to know each and every student by name and by need. When you know students by name and by need, no matter how big or small your campus is, you're able to design the instructional supports that are needed for that child to be able to learn in the classroom.

Q: There still is that achievement gap between white students and students of color. What is San Diego Unified doing to address the achievement gap?

A: That persistence of the achievement gap has been around for a very long time. What this study did is actually look at where in the state of California do you have schools or school districts that are beating that expectation. If you look at the demographics of African-American and Latino students and you control for income and you say, wow, given the same population, these districts are doing something different. That goes back to knowing students by name and by need.

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