GreatSchools’ new report reveals a tale of two systems in California schools

Only 2% of California’s African American and 6% of Hispanic students attend a high opportunity and high performing school for their student group

Oakland, CA, May 17, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Today, on the 63rd anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, GreatSchools released Searching for Opportunity: Examining Racial Gaps in Access to Quality Schools in California and a List of Spotlight Schools. This first-of-its-kind report exposes alarming gaps in access to educational opportunity and student achievement broken down by race and ethnicity. The report examines trends at K-12 schools across the state to shed light on systemic gaps in access to advanced courses, teacher experience, college readiness, academic achievement, discipline, and other measures that indicate a student’s chances for success in college and careers.

The report concludes California’s public schools are a tale of two educational systems – one that offers 59% of white and 73% of Asian students in the state with access to educational opportunities and high student achievement, and one where the same opportunities and advantages are only accessible to 2% of African-American and 6% of Hispanic students.

“We have long known about gaps in outcomes, but this report shows extreme gaps in opportunity, which calls into question our fundamental commitment to equity and fairness,” says Matthew Nelson, president of GreatSchools. “This report presents sobering news, but we can see it doesn’t have to be this way. The schools we have spotlighted show what’s possible despite the staggering trends.”

Of the over 9,000 public schools statewide, GreatSchools also identified 156 “Spotlight Schools” with exemplary opportunities and results for African American and Hispanic students.

GreatSchools’ analysis includes both data on student outcomes as well as measures of educational opportunity and school resources. It reveals systemic achievement gaps mirrored by disparities in access to educational opportunity that make it possible for students to prepare for and succeed in college or a career.

Key findings:

  • African American and Hispanic students are 11 times less likely than white and Asian students to attend a school with strong opportunities and results for their subgroup.
  • There is a deep chasm between the achievement of white and Asian students and African-American and Hispanic students. The report shows 83% of white students and 92% of Asian students attend a school where their test scores are above the 60th percentile statewide, compared to only 9% of African American students and 14% of Hispanic students.
  • High schools are not preparing all students for eligibility at the University of California or California State University systems. Statewide, only 41% of students graduate from a school where the majority of students are eligible for UC/CSU enrollment. And only 22% of African American and 19% of Hispanic students attend a school where the majority of graduates in their racial group are UC/CSU eligible, compared to 58% of white and 91% of Asian students.
  • Significant disparities exist in California students’ access to advanced courses. For example, fewer than 1 in 4 California high school students is enrolled in an advanced STEM course, but those rates are fewer than 1 in 7 for African American students, 1 in 6 Hispanic students, 1 in 3 white students, and 3 in 5 Asian students.
  • Schools with a majority of African-American students have a lower ratio of students per teacher but the teachers are less experienced and paid a lower salary. Students in a majority African American school are three times more likely to have an inexperienced teacher than students in a majority white school and the average teacher salary is $9,000 less than in majority white schools, $10,000 less than majority Hispanic, and $15,000 less per year than in a school with majority Asian enrollment.
  • Student discipline by race is highly disproportionate. Over 50% of African American students attend a school where at least one in ten African American students are suspended, compared to only 8% of white students attend a school where their suspension rates are similar.

The report connects aggregate data to new school-specific data on designed specifically for parents to easily understand the quality of every public school in every community in California based on much more than just test score results. These newly designed school profiles provide a rich array of information across the themes of academics, equity and school environment.

“Among other contributions, this important analysis points to cycles of racial inequity in our education system that are corrosive and sustained by failures of foresight, commitment and compassion,” says Christopher Edley, co-founder, The Opportunity Institute. “Parents can track local schools. And all of us can hold our leaders accountable to set a course likely to make the report’s facts better in five years.”


GreatSchools is the leading nonprofit providing high-quality information that supports parents pursuing a great education for their child, schools striving for excellence, and communities working to diminish inequities in education. We are the only national organization that collects and analyzes data from all 51 state departments of education and the federal government to provide analysis, insights, and school quality ratings for parents, partners, researchers, and policymakers. Over 49 million users visit GreatSchools’ award-winning website annually to learn about schools in their area, explore research insights, and access thousands of free, evidence-based parenting resources to support their child’s learning and well-being.

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