Why Is This Important?
A good education provides a foundation for children to become productive members of society, obtain high-quality jobs, and contribute towards their community’s general welfare.  By providing equal access to a good education, schools can play a large role in creating a level playing field for all children, regardless of their socioeconomic status.  Further, a highly skilled and educated workforce will attract businesses to the area with resulting economic benefits.

What Is a Sustainable State?
A sustainable state is one where all children receive a good education that equips them with the tools, knowledge, and confidence to fully reach their human potential and become active participants in society.

How Are We Doing?
API scores
The Academic Performance Index (API) is the cornerstone of California’s Public Schools Accountability Act of 1999.  Student performance on standardized tests is aggregated at the school level and converted into a score between 200 and 1,000.  Each individual school is given a yearly growth target based on the previous year’s performance level.  The performance target for all California schools is 800. 

Data source: California Department of Education

In 2007, the median API scores for county schools were 797 for elementary, 773 for middle, and 738 for high schools.  Median scores for middle and high schools improved from 2006, whereas the median score for elementary schools was down slightly from 798. 

Comparisons of API scores between individual schools are problematic because of differences in student populations.  A high proportion of socioeconomically disadvantaged students or English learners will have a negative impact on a school’s API as these students generally score lower than other students.  For example, in 2007 the median API for county school districts was 774, whereas the district level median API for socio-economically disadvantaged students and English learners was 690 and 671 respectively.

Preparation for higher education
In 2006, 46 percent of the county’s high school graduating class met University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) eligibility requirements, compared with 36 percent for the state. 

Data sources: California Department of Education and the Education Data Partnership

Despite meeting UC and CSU eligibility requirements, many graduates are still unprepared for higher education.  Of the students from county high schools entering the CSU system in the fall of 2006, 34 percent were deemed not proficient in math and 42 percent were not proficient in English (as defined as prepared to enroll in college-level courses). 

School resources
There is wide variability in expenditures per student across school districts.  Much of the variation is driven by the availability of local revenue sources to supplement state and federal dollars.  It can also reflect revenues received for specific services, such as special education dollars.

Data sources: California Department of Education and the Education Data

Data related to teachers in the county include:

  • During the 2006-07 school year, 95 percent of the 4,565 teachers employed in county schools were fully credentialed, the same percentage as for all public schools in the state. 
  • During the 2005-06 school year, two districts (Los Lomitas Elementary and Portola Valley Elementary) had average annual teacher salaries exceeding $78,000.  Thirteen school districts’ average teacher salaries were below $60,000.
  • During the 2005-06 school year, two districts (Portola Valley Elementary and Woodside Elementary) had pupil-teacher ratios of roughly 13 students per teacher, whereas three districts (Pacifica, Jefferson Union High, and San Bruno Park Elementary) had pupil-teacher ratios over 22 students per teacher.

Arts, career technical, and outdoor education
Art is an important element in a well rounded education.  Students learn creative thinking and different ways of expressing themselves.  Arts education can benefit all children, but the effects on at-risk children can be even greater.  This is especially true for children from low-income households who, because of a lack of resources available to them, are less likely to be introduced to the arts.  Arts competencies themselves can be marketable skills in today’s economy (e.g. web design, graphic arts, advertising, etc.).

Career technical education, formerly known as vocational education, helps students explore future career options and prepare for post-high school training or work.  It can also keep students interested and engaged enough in school to graduate.

The following chart shows the number of fine art and career technical education classes offered in county schools since the 2002-03 school year.

Data source: California Department of Education

The San Mateo Outdoor Education Program hosts students at Jones Gulch to learn about the natural world.  Students attend classes, explore tide pools, visit marshes, and hike with a team of naturalists who teach them about the coastal environment and living sustainably.  Since the 2003-04 program year, an average of over 4,600 fifth or sixth graders and over 460 high school students have participated annually.

See appendix page 74, CLICK HERE. Researchers: Elinore Bloomfield and Valerie Sims