Los Angeles Unified’s popular magnet centers and schools outscored independent charters by double-digit margins on California’s new state assessments, and also beat statewide averages on the rigorous math and English tests, according to data released today.
In the analysis of the Smarter Balanced Assessments, 61 percent of magnet students met or exceeded standards in English-Language Arts (ELA), compared with 45 percent of independent charter students. On the math assessments, 48 percent of magnet students met or exceeded standards, while 31 percent of independent charter students hit those marks.
“This is another accomplishment to celebrate as we move closer to our goal of preparing all of our graduates for success,” said Superintendent Michelle King.
“We are working hard to identify strategies that support student achievement. We want all of our schools – no matter what model – to continue to make progress in helping students fulfill their potential,” she said. “But what is great about L.A. Unified is that we believe in all of our schools and all of our students.”
Statewide, an average of 37 percent of students met or exceeded standards on math assessments, as did 49 percent on ELA tests. In traditional District schools, 29 percent of students met or exceeded math standards and 39 percent performed at that level on the English exam.
Magnets made across-the-board gains over their scores for 2015, when they outperformed independent charters and traditional schools.
“Magnet schools are committed to creating and maintaining a culture of rigor, high expectations, and scholarship,” said Keith Abrahams, the executive director of Student Integration Services. “Our schools establish the necessary conditions for innovation, exploration, and academic success. We view the Smarter Balanced results as a testament to our hard work.”
L.A.Unified currently has 214 themed magnet centers or free-standing schools, with plans to add or expand at least 13 more in 2017. The themes include business, communications, the increasingly popular STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – and programs for gifted students.
The District created its magnet program in the 1970s as a voluntary desegregation strategy designed to increase racial equality in schools. Students are enrolled through a lottery system that uses a variety of criteria to assign priority points to applicants.
“Families have many choices when it comes to educating their children, and I am proud of the high-quality options that L.A. Unified is able to provide,” King said.
The online Smarter Balanced exams are based on California’s more challenging academic standards. They are designed to assess a student’s ability to write clearly, think critically and solve complex problems – just as they will need to do in college and the workplace. Students take the test each spring in Grades 3-8 and Grade 11.
According to the report, magnet student outperformed their independent charter counterparts in each grade and subject tested. Performance was highest in Grade 11, with 76 percent of magnet students meeting or exceeding ELA standards, and 46 percent reaching those marks in math. By comparison, 65 percent of 11th-grade charter students scored met or exceeded English standards, and 33 percent performed at that level in math.
Downtown Magnets High School, where 81 percent of students qualify for free or discounted meals, was among the District’s highest-performing magnets. There, 92 percent of students met or exceeded standards in English, a 5 point increase. On the math exam, 72 percent of students demonstrated proficiency, a whopping 25-point jump.
“It’s not magic, it is a relentless focus on the details,” said Dr. Jared DuPree, the school’s principal. Aggressive instruction has been our focus over the last few years. The Smarter Balanced results serve as confirmation that this schoolwide philosophy is producing university-worthy outcomes for our students.
“Focusing on the art of argumentation with supportive objective evidence has been a hallmark practice across – not just English and mathematics – but all disciplines at DMHS. We have also been teaching students to extend that which is learned to new context.
“We are excited about the promise of all students,” he said.
Students in Venice High School’s Foreign Language Magnet brought their ELA scores up by 45 points this year, with 83 percent of kids meeting or exceeding standards. Their math scores also jumped 43 in math, with 58 percent of students demonstrating proficiency.
“Our teachers are outstanding, our kids are incredibly devoted to their education and our parents are engaged,” Venice High Principal Oryla Wiedoeft said. “It’s a trifecta of greatness.”
In comparisons of ethnic groups, African-American, Latino and white students in magnets each scored 12 points higher than their counterparts in independent charters. The gap between Asian students in magnets and charters was 5 points.
Magnet students with disabilities showed a 1-point drop in proficiency from the prior year but still outscored students in independent charters, 20 to 13 percent.
Among demographic subgroups, only English-learners in charters outperformed their magnet counterparts – 11 to 6 percent – the results remaining stable from the prior year.
Demographically, independent charters mirror traditional District schools, with 82 percent of their students classified as low-income compared with 80 percent for L.A. Unified as a whole. Magnets had low-income enrollment of 69 percent.
Magnets also had lower percentage of students with disabilities (6 percent), compared with independent charters (11 percent) and traditional schools (12 percent).
Among ethnic groups, magnets had the highest percentage of African American, white and Asian students, compared with independent charters and traditional schools. The enrollment of Latino students was 58 percent for magnets, 74 percent for charters and 73 percent for traditional schools.
Just 5 percent of magnet students were English-learners, compared with 19 percent for independent charters and 18 percent for traditional schools.
The data was compiled by Dr. Cynthia Lim, executive director of the Office of Data and Accountability.
Click here to view a video about L.A. Unified’s award-winning magnet program.