Mirror Staff Writer
Despite gloomy marks for school districts statewide the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District received high marks at the “The State of Our Schools” community report this past Monday.
Dr. Brian Stecher, a Senior Social Scientist in Education from RAND, told the crowd gathered at the Main Library’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Auditorium that a study published in 2005 by another RAND researcher, Dr. Stephan Carroll, gave California a C for school funding, a D for instructional support, a D+ for school facilities and an F in academic achievement.
These failing grades were based upon research that showed the typical student in California gets $800 less in funding than the national average; the state has the largest class sizes; California has the highest percentage of teachers without credentials; California students don’t do as well as students in other states on standardized tests and graduation rates statewide fall within the bottom 20 percent of all states. The only bright spot was the decline in school facilities is starting to be reversed over the last couple of years due to the passage of school facilities bond measures.
School Board President Julia Brownley then answered the questioned “Why is the story so different in our community than the rest of the state?” Her response noted that the Carroll’s research found “a clear correlation between a steady decline in real dollars going to public education as a result of Proposition 13 and a steady decrease in student achievement.” This decrease in funding has resulted statewide in an increase in class size, increased teacher turnover, a reduction in personnel support for teachers and students and cuts in programs like reading intervention “proven to help students.”
Brownley stressed, “Fortunately we in Santa Monica and Malibu have managed to avoid some of those critical cuts” because of $20 million in local funding. $10.3 million is received from our two parcel taxes, $6.2 million is given by the City of Santa Monica, $300,000 comes from the City of Malibu and $2-3 million is raised by the PTA.
These additional funds have meant that the “Newsweek 2006 poll ranked both Santa Monica and Malibu High Schools in the top one percent of public high schools nationally.” In addition, high school counselor-student ratios are the best in the state and equal the national average, more students are taking advanced placement classes, the District high school graduation rate is 98 percent and graduates are going on to the top national universities and liberal arts colleges.
Interim Superintendent Mike Matthews noted some of the District’s other achievements, including recent test scores, have clearly demonstrated “excellence [for all students] and progress towards closing the achievement gap” between socio-economically disadvantaged students, Latinos and African-American students. He also mentioned that the District’s two Title I schools – McKinley Elementary School and the Edison Language Academy – have received academic achievement awards.