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Report finds charters lead the way in closing ‘achievement gap’ in LA

Craig Clough | March 22, 2016

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KIPP Racies founding principal Amber Young Medina and students

KIPP Raices founding principal Amber Young Medina and students.

A new report that analyzed how effective schools and cities are at closing the “achievement gap” between students from low-income families and their more advantaged peers found that nine of the top 10 schools in Los Angeles were independent charter schools.

The first-of-its-kind Education Equality Index from Education Cities studied data from schools in the 100 largest U.S. cities, and in each identified up to 10 schools with small or nonexistent achievement gaps that serve a student population where the majority are from low-income families. In LA, the following schools were recognized:

  • Alliance Dr. Olga Mohan High School
  • Alliance Environmental Science and Technology High School
  • Alliance Gertz-Ressler Richard Merkin 6-12 Complex
  • Celerity Octavia Charter School
  • Equitas Academy Charter School
  • KIPP Empower Academy
  • KIPP Los Angeles College Preparatory School
  • KIPP Raices Academy
  • Renaissance Arts Academy
  • Solano Avenue Elementary School

Nine of the 10 recognized schools were charter schools, with the lone traditional district school being Solano Avenue Elementary near Chinatown. KIPP Raices, a charter school in East Los Angeles, was named a 2015 National Blue Ribbon Schools winner.

“We are honored to have three schools recognized among the top 10 in Los Angeles for opening doors of opportunity for underserved students and helping to close the achievement gap here in LA,” Angella Martinez, chief academic officer of KIPP LA schools, said in a statement. “While there is so much more work to be done, we are proud of our school teachers and leaders that are proving what is possible in public education.”

Three of the top 10 schools in LA were part of the Alliance College-Ready Public Schools charter organization, which operates 27 schools in the LA area.

“We are honored that three of our campuses are among the top 10 schools in Los Angeles paving the way to close the achievement gap for low-income students,” Alliance Chief Executive Officer Dan Katzir said in a statement. “Alliance has served traditionally underserved communities in LA for 11 years, and we remain committed to providing a world-class education and creating opportunity for our students and their families. The Education Equality Index affirms that our schools are making a difference in the lives of students who might not otherwise have access to pursue the education they deserve.”

The report was funded by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and developed in partnership by the foundation, Education Cities and GreatSchools. The report’s methodology gathered data from 2011 to 2014 and compared statewide standardized test scores from low-income students with their more advantaged peers.

Overall, California ranked No. 10 on the list out of 34 states that qualified for the report, and Los Angeles ranked No. 57 out of 100. (Because California did not record 2014 test results, 2013 scores were used in place of 2014 scores.)

Los Angeles’ achievement gap narrowed by five percent between 2011 and 2013, which was a faster rate than nearly 70 percent of the nation’s largest cities.

“According to the Education Equality Index, Los Angeles narrowed the achievement gap by five percent from 2011­ to 2013,” Ethan Gray, founder and CEO of Education Cities, said in a statement. “We celebrate the schools where students from low­-income families are achieving at similar rates to their more advantaged peers. Los Angeles is heading in the right direction but has a long way to go ensuring that all students have access to equitable schools.”

Of the 610 schools recognized in the study for closing the achievement gap, nearly 30 percent are charter schools, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

“The findings from the Education Equality Index clearly illustrate the large achievement gaps plaguing our K-12 education system. Nevertheless, many schools are making significant strides in providing high-quality opportunities to all children, regardless of their socioeconomic background, and charter public schools are leading the way,” Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said in a statement.

Nationwide, the achievement gap stagnated or grew between 2011 and 2014, but in 90 of the largest cities, there are individual schools that are closing or have closed the achievement gap, the index found. Eight of the cities have small achievement gaps, 25 have large achievement gaps and 67 have massive achievement gaps, according to the index, which also found that only two of 10 students in the cities attend schools that are closing the achievement gap.

“Equality of opportunity is an American ideal,” Gray said. “The Education Equality Index shows that while we, as a nation, have a long way to go to ensure our most vulnerable children have the opportunities they need to thrive, there are schools in almost every city proving that equality is possible.”

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