Many students in the Santa Monica-Malibu school district are eligible to apply for college. But are they ready?
The percentage of SMMUSD students who complete college-entrance requirements far outstrips the percentage of students who are considered prepared for higher education and beyond.
The discrepancy came to light during the local Board of Education’s recent review of data on a wide variety of metrics as the district attempts to improve on goals it set as part of the Local Control and Accountability Plan. Statistical benchmarks were determined as part of the accountability plan, which is being implemented as the district shoulders more responsibility in handling state funds.
Eighty-two percent of SMMUSD graduates in 2014-15 had completed the A-G requirements, a 10-percent jump from a year earlier, according to district data. The district surpassed its goal of 75 percent for the first time since 2009-10, the earliest year for which figures were made available.
But far fewer students were deemed ready for college math and English, according to their tests results on the recently implemented California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress exams.
Just 7 percent of students in the district were considered prepared for college math and 36 percent were assessed as ready for college English in 2014-15, the first year of the new state tests. The district’s rate in math was even lower than the overall state rate (11 percent).
The discrepancy puzzled board member Ralph Mechur, among others.
“If we have high A-G completion, why are only a small percentage ready for college-level math or English?” he said. “Achieving a C level should have you closer to being eligible to take college-level classes.”
Terry Deloria, assistant superintendent for educational services, explained that A-G requirements are needed to apply to University of California campuses and many other colleges. On the other hand, she said, the college readiness metrics focus specifically on English and math marks from standardized tests.
“There are students who pass math classes but don’t get standard [benchmarks] on standardized tests,” she said.
Deloria said the district is trying to act on early-warning indicators that a student might be falling behind. Figuring out which students need intensive intervention, which need practice and which need to be pushed beyond the baseline standards, she said, would make it easier to provide the necessary services and assistance.
“We have a lot of work to do in that area,” she said.
Superintendent Sandra Lyon, who recently announced she’ll be stepping down to become the top administrator of the Palm Springs Unified School District, said SMMUSD is still developing in its collection and application of data. She noted that changes in state processes have made it more difficult to assemble figures that give officials accurate information on student outcomes.
Officials also said it can be hard to tell the extent to which a particular program or method is impacting students.
“We’ve been in a data vacuum,” Lyon said. “We want to put together a dashboard that looks at these key indicators. … We don’t have that system in place.”