An increasing number of Santa Barbara Unified School District’s students without economic disadvantages are meeting the requirements to apply for University of California schools each year.
But eligibility rates among low-income students are not growing, with around 40% of graduating seniors meeting eligibility each year. Comparatively, just over 65% of non-socioeconomically disadvantaged students meet the requirements.
This gap was discussed by the Santa Barbara Unified School District during its last school board meeting of the 2020-2021 school year Tuesday night.
Currently the district’s graduation requirements don’t align with the University of California system and California State University’s standard, also known as A-G eligibility.
There are three main differences.
First, students must graduate with the equivalent of Math III or higher to enroll in UC/CSU schools, but Santa Barbara Unified requires Math II or higher. (The state’s requirement is only Math I or higher.)
UC/CSU also expect students to have taken two years of language courses other than English. Santa Barbara Unified doesn’t require these language courses.
Lastly, Santa Barbara Unified students can graduate with a D- grade or higher, but UC and CSU schools expect C-s and higher.
The district is considering altering its requirements to align with the colleges’ standards.
In 2018, only 28.3% of the district’s graduates met the colleges’ benchmarks. That number boosted up to 52.9% in 2019.
The state’s average sits at about 50%, and Santa Barbara Unified is measuring above that mark. But some student populations are not seeing such rates of success.
“The rising tide doesn’t necessarily float all boats,” Shawn Carey, assistant superintendent of secondary education, said. “We feel proud of our overall increasing rates of A-G eligibility, but it doesn’t float all boats equally. And that is the most important story for us.”
The district anticipates that 84% of its Asian graduates and 73% of white graduates have met A-G requirements this year. (The grades are not yet finalized.)
By contrast, 41% of black students and 43% of Hispanic/Latino students are eligible.
While not discussed much by the board, just 6.4% of disabled students met the requirements.
The lowest rate is in emergent multilingual learners (or students learning who are learning English) with just under 3% eligible. This rate could be low because students who begin as EML are frequently reclassified into the general student body before their senior year.
“That means there’s something about the system that is not working for those students who are not achieving A-G eligibility at the same rate as all students and of some of their peer groups and sometimes, in some cases, at half the rate of their peers,” Ms. Carey said.
The Future Leaders of America, a youth leadership nonprofit geared toward Latino/a youth, brought the disparity to the district’s attention in March.
FLA representatives called in during public comment.
“Many students find out too late that they can’t apply to UC because they don’t have the courses that they need in order to qualify the requirements. It would be great to see these resources available to everyone,” Abi Marin, FLA student, said.
Board members also joined the discussion.
“I know that in this slide, that percentages were represented. But when I look at those percentages, I don’t look at percentages; I look at numbers,” board member Virginia Alvarez said.
“How many total, how many of the students, how many of our EML students graduated without meaning the A-G standards? We have to do something now,” she said.
She also called for a deeper look at the numbers, which was echoed by Wendy Sims-Moten, board clerk.
The presentation was for discussion, so the board could not take any action on the item.
Other agenda items included the approval of the Local Control and Accountability Plan and the budget for the next school year.
Both items were unanimously approved, though the budget projections include dipping into the district’s reserves.
The district will learn more about its funding as property taxes become finalized at the end of the month and state legislators approve budget trailer bills.
The board also approved entering into a contract with FPA Multifamily LLC for the sale of the Tatum Property, a 30-acre tract of land the district is unable to develop into a school site.
Meg Jetté, assistant superintendent of business services, assured board members that the district received an appraisal to determine the $17 million sales price.
The district must receive approval from the state Board of Education to forgo the competitive bidding process.
FPA plans to build a 331-unit apartment complex with 56 units of affordable housing. It has agreed to give district employees priority when leasing, though the details of that agreement are yet to be decided.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for July 20.