California School District Narrowed its Latino Achievement Gap
Covina-Valley Unified School District has a high student success rate and has managed to narrow its Latino achievement gap. Latino students make up 75 percent of the district’s 12,000-student enrollment and have a 97 percent graduation rate, which is among the highest percentages of any ethnic group in any district in California. The Latino students at this school district outperform Latino students statewide on the Smarter Balanced standardized tests; however, a gap persists between Covina-Valley’s Latino students and their white and Asian peers statewide. A report by Education Trust-West reveled that a majority of Latino students in California failed to meet or exceed the state standards in English language arts and math in almost every county in California, attend more segregated schools, and have less access to high-quality preschools than their white peers. Richard Sheehan, superintendent of Covina-Valley Unified, states,
This has been a priority for us. We believe every kid deserves the best education possible. The hard part is funding, but we’ve learned to be creative and we have a lot of good things happening.
Latino students in Covina-Valley Unified did well on the 2017 English language arts tests with 50 percent of the Latino students meeting or exceeding standards, compared to 37 percent of Latino students statewide. In math, 32 percent Latino students in Covina-Valley Unified met or exceeded standards, compared to 25 percent of Latino students statewide. The biggest asset the school uses is the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, which an elective class at several middle and high schools that’s sponsored by Avid, a San Diego-based nonprofit. The Avid program seeks to lower the achievement gap by training teachers to offer their students guidance in study, organizing their school work, note-taking and time management skills. The Avid classes are available to all students, but the program is designed to boost academic performances among Latino, African-American, low-income white and Asian students, and those who are the first in their families to attend college. Hopefully, other districts can learn from Covina-Valley’s successful approaches to narrow the Latino achievement gap so that more Latino students are able to thrive in school.