• INSIDE OUR SCHOOLS

      Editor’s Note: This article is published in our latest print edition (Vol.2 – No. 2). Subscribe to our newspaper for $30 for the entire year and help San Gabriel Valley’s true local journalism thrive.

      Marshall Fundamental students working on their Senior Defense (Photo - Felita Kealing)

      Marshall Fundamental students working on their Senior Defense (Photo – Felita Kealing)

      When it comes to education in San Gabriel Valley schools, where you live matters!

      By Liz Jackman

      The San Gabriel Valley is a diverse and vibrant place to live, but when it comes to the school districts in the area there is high disparity in performance that often falls along racial and economic lines. In spite of improvements, stereotypes still persist about the educational opportunities in the area.

      PUSD

      Let’s take a look at Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD).  In PUSD, 83% of students are nonwhite and 63% are eligible for free or reduced lunches.  This makes PUSD majority low-income, racial ethnic minority students.  However, this does not reflect Pasadena as a whole.  The City of Pasadena has a diverse population in terms of race and income, but when it comes to the school district it’s a different story.  In fact, only 55% of school-age children in Pasadena attend PUSD schools.

      Private Schools

      You may be wondering, if only 55% of school-age children in Pasadena attend PUSD schools, where are all the other kids going?  Pasadena has a long tradition of private schools.  According to the National Association of Independent Schools, Pasadena has 52 private schools, which educate about one-third of all students.  This is compared to only 8% of California students that attend private schools.  Pasadena has an unusually high concentration of private schools.

      Again you may be asking yourself, why does Pasadena have so many private schools?  Well, it has a lot to do with Pasadena’s history.  In the 1970s, Pasadena was mandated to desegregate the schools.  This was done primarily through busing, which lead to a lot of “white flight.”  White families that could afford it moved their kids to private schools or to other school districts.  This happened almost 50 years ago, but the impacts remain today.

      Marshall Fundamental students working on Innovation Project (Photo - Felita Kealing)

      Marshall Fundamental students working on Innovation Project (Photo – Felita Kealing)

      La Cañada, South Pasadena and San Marino

      Now, let’s take a look at some other cities in the San Gabriel Valley.  La Cañada Flintridge (La Cañada), South Pasadena and San Marino all border Pasadena, but these school districts look very different in terms of students and performance.  According to the California School Dashboard, PUSD is performing at a lower rate on several measures.  On the 2018 Smarter Balance Test for math, 41% of PUSD students did not meet the math standard compared to only 8% for South Pasadena and 4% for La Cañada and San Marino.  In contrast, 69% of San Marino students exceeded the math standard compared to 16% of PUSD students.

      SGV Schools Chart 1 (©ColoradoBoulevard.net)

      SGV Schools Chart 1 (©ColoradoBoulevard.net)

      Are some school districts better than others?

      Some might chalk this up to some school districts are just better than others, but the population of these school districts are very different.  Let’s look at the number of socioeconomically disadvantaged students (students that receive free or reduced lunch). La Cañada has 209 socioeconomically disadvantaged students, San Marino 228, South Pasadena 895 and Pasadena has a whopping 10,698 socioeconomically disadvantaged students to its 16,881 total student population.

      SGV Schools Chart 2 (©ColoradoBoulevard.net)

      SGV Schools Chart 2 (©ColoradoBoulevard.net)

      This is really a question of equity.  Our school districts are not equal.  The Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis has found that “concentrated poverty is tightly correlated with gaps in educational achievement.” Although Pasadena does not have concentrated poverty the school district essentially does and this is not unique to Pasadena.  This economic segregation of minority students occurs in cities across the US.  This economic segregation disproportionately impacts our racial/ethnic minority students.  According to the National Center for Educational Statistics three-fourths of both African American and Hispanic young people (compared to about one-third of white students) attend schools where most of their classmates qualify as low income.  It’s not that poorer kids are any less smart, it’s that schools serving majority low income students tend to have fewer resources making their educational journey that much harder.

      As the director of the Rise Tutoring Program at the Caltech Y, I see the additional hurdles that our students must overcome.  Taking 2 buses to come to tutoring, working part-time while balancing academics and extra-curricular activities, first generation students also have to navigate the entire college application process themselves.  These students are hard-working and succeeding, but the playing field is not even.  As a community we need more diverse schools, racially and economically, and we need to do a better job of giving all students more equitable resources in their educational careers.

      Liz Jackman is the Associate Director at the Caltech Y.  She oversees the Rise Tutoring Program, which is a math and science focused college preparation program that serves the students of Pasadena Unified School District who receive a C or below in their math and science subjects. For more info visit caltechy.org.

      >This article is published in our latest print edition (Vol.2 – No. 2). Subscribe to our newspaper for $12 for the entire year and help San Gabriel Valley’s true local journalism thrive.


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