Has Illegal Immigration Ruined Los Angeles Public Schools?

Allan J. Favish, FrontPageMagazine, Feb. 22

The fate of the Los Angeles Unified School District is a tragedy that is spreading across the country. To understand what is in store for America I offer my story about the LAUSD and why I abandoned it. As you will see, the cause is our toleration of illegal immigration from Mexico.

In February of 2002 my wife and I were expecting our first child. We needed to move to a larger home. I worked in West Los Angeles but the home prices were generally less in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles where we were. Apart from the house, the main factors in my search were the time I would need to commute to my job and a decent government school where I could send our child in about five years. I did not want to pay $10,000 and more per year beginning with kindergarten for private school if I could reasonably avoid it.

My research established that with rare exceptions, I could not send my child to the LAUSD if I cared about her education. Although I attended LAUSD schools from kindergarten through high school, because of what I found, I moved out of Los Angeles City to Santa Clarita, a city in the northern part of Los Angeles County, which is out of the LAUSD. The price I am paying is a commute to work of 90-120 minutes each way. And that is with my use of the car pool lane.

I learned that the California Department of Education annually calculates an Academic Performance Index (API) for every California government school and publishes the results. The API is based on standardized tests given to the students. I learned this from the “Explanatory Notes for 2001 API Base Report“ that the state also publishes.

The first school I examined was the closest to where we lived. This was Tarzana Elementary School. I found the “2001 Academic Performance Index (API) Base Report“ for Tarzana. The first thing I noticed was that the state had assigned a statewide rank to the school. The rankings ranged from 1 to 10. If an elementary school is ranked a 10 that means it is in the top 10% of California government elementary schools. If the elementary school is ranked a 5 then it is only in the top 40-49% of California government elementary schools. Tarzana had a 5.

At this point I was hoping that I could find an area with a better performing government school than this one.

But I read more about Tarzana. I noticed that the state gave a “similar schools rank” in the results. This allowed me to compare Tarzana with other California government elementary schools that had similar characteristics. According to the “Explanatory Notes for 2001 API Base Report“ these characteristics are:

* Pupil mobility

* Pupil ethnicity

* Pupil socioeconomic status

* Percentage of teachers who are fully credentialed

* Percentage of teachers who hold emergency credentials

* Percentage of pupils who are English language learners

* Average class size per grade level

* Whether the schools operate multitrack year-round educational programs

Tarzana ranked 10 in this category. This means that when compared with California government elementary schools with those similar characteristics, Tarzana was in the top 10% of those schools. This was good news, but not good enough to outweigh the 5 statewide ranking.

I continued reading the API Report for Tarzana. It provided the “Parent Education Level” that showed the highest education level attained by the parents. Only 3% of the student answer documents provided this information. For this small sample, 0% of the parents attended graduate school. Only 10% of the parents were college graduates. 30% of the parents had only some college. 40% of the parents were only high school graduates. 20% of the parents had not graduated high school.

The API Report for Tarzana also provided additional information. It stated that of the 318 students included in the report, 252 were socioeconomically disadvantaged, meaning students who meet either one of two criteria: Neither of the student’s parents has received a high school diploma or the student participates in the free or reduced price lunch program. It also stated that 78% of the students were participants in the free or reduced price lunch program. It also stated that 40% of the students were English language learners. Average class size for K-3 was 17 and for grades 4-6 it was 30.

Looking in another area I looked at a home in the western part of the San Fernando Valley, near the upscale Topanga Canyon Shopping Center. I was seriously considering making an offer on the home when I saw the API Report for Canoga Park Elementary School. The school’s statewide rank was 1 out of 10, meaning that it was in the bottom 10%. When compared with similar California government elementary schools, Canoga’s similar schools rank was 4. So not only was Canoga doing very poorly, it was underperforming as compared with similar schools.

Canoga provided a larger sample for evaluating its “Parent Education Level” than did Tarzana because 45% of the student answer documents provided this information. For this sample, 3% of the parents attended graduate school. 9% of the parents were only college graduates. 14% of the parents had only some college. 28% of the parents were only high school graduates. 46% of the parents had not graduated high school.

The API Report for Canoga Park also provided additional information. It stated that of the 734 students included in the report, 665 were socioeconomically disadvantaged. It also stated that 88% of the students were participants in the free or reduced price lunch program. It also stated that 65% of the students were English language learners. Average class size for K-3 was 18 and for grades 4-6 it was 29.

I continued my house-hunting at a development of new homes in the northwest San Fernando Valley. I would have made an offer on one of them, except for what I found out about the local government elementary school. The API Report for Noble Avenue Elementary School showed that the school had a statewide rank of 1 out of 10. Its similar schools rank was 2, which means that is was significantly underperforming when compared with similar schools.

Noble provided a small sample for evaluating its “Parent Education Level”. Only 4% of the student answer documents provided this information. For this sample, 0% of the parents attended graduate school. Only 2% of the parents were college graduates. 20% of the parents had only some college. 28% of the parents were only high school graduates. 50% of the parents had not graduated high school.

The API Report for Noble also provided additional information. It stated that of the 957 students included in the report, 941 were socioeconomically disadvantaged. It also stated that 98% of the students were participants in the free or reduced price lunch program. It also stated that 83% of the students were English language learners. Average class size for K-3 was 19 and for grades 4-6 it was 30.

I then looked at the API Report for Carpenter Avenue Elementary School, which is in the Studio City area of the San Fernando Valley. Carpenter was doing comparatively well. The school’s statewide rank was 10 out of 10, meaning that it was in the top 10% of California government elementary schools. When compared with similar California government elementary schools, Carpenter’s similar schools rank was 9. Thus Carpenter was in the top 80-89% of similar schools. Not too bad.

Carpenter provided a larger sample for evaluating its “Parent Education Level” than did the other schools I examined. 84% of the student answer documents provided this information. For this sample, 10% of the parents attended graduate school. 70% of the parents were only college graduates. 8% of the parents had only some college. 11% of the parents were only high school graduates. 0% of the parents had not graduated high school. Thus the parents of the Carpenter students were much more formally educated than the parents at the other schools.

The API Report for Carpenter also provided additional information. It stated that of the 461 students included in the report, 84 were socioeconomically disadvantaged. It also stated that 17% of the students were participants in the free or reduced price lunch program. It also stated that 13% of the students were English language learners. Average class size for K-3 was 18 and for grades 4-6 it was 31.

Unfortunately, I found that the homes that fed the Carpenter school were much more expensive than I could afford for what I wanted in my home.

I was curious about the students at the elementary school from which I graduated in West Los Angeles, so I looked at the API Report for Shenandoah Street Elementary School. This school is very close to the very wealthy Cheviot Hills area of West Los Angeles. I found that I could not in good conscience send my child to my old school. The school’s statewide rank was 1 out of 10, meaning that it was in the bottom 10%. When compared with similar California government elementary schools, Shenandoah’s similar schools rank was 5.

Shenandoah provided a very small sample for evaluating its “Parent Education Level”. Only 1% of the student answer documents provided this information. For this sample, 0% of the parents attended graduate school. 0% of the parents were college graduates. 67% of the parents had only some college. 33% of the parents were only high school graduates. 0% of the parents had not graduated high school.

The API Report for Shenandoah also provided additional information. It stated that of the at least 455 students included in the report (apparently there were more than 455, but they were not categorized in the racial/ethnic categories), 456 were socioeconomically disadvantaged. It also stated that 99% of the students were participants in the free or reduced price lunch program. It also stated that 61% of the students were English language learners. Average class size for K-3 was 18 and for grades 4-6 it was 27.

Even if I could have afforded a house I otherwise found desirable in Shenandoah’s area, I would not want it.

I then looked at the government elementary school that was in the Cheviot Hills area, Castle Heights Elementary School. Although there were many very expensive homes in the area, which included a couple of golf courses, unlike the area around Carpenter Avenue Elementary School in Studio City, there were also many apartment buildings feeding the school.

I examined the API Report for Castle Heights Elementary School. The school’s statewide rank was 6 out of 10. When compared with similar California government elementary schools, its similar schools rank was 8. It seemed ironic that the homeowners in Cheviot Hills whose million dollar-plus homes were providing such large property tax revenues for the government schools would probably not want to send their children to Castle Heights.

21% of the student answer documents provided information on Castle Heights’”Parent Education Level”. For this sample, 30% of the parents attended graduate school. 27% of the parents were only college graduates. 27% of the parents had only some college. 10% of the parents were only high school graduates. 6% of the parents had not graduated high school.

The API Report for Castle Heights also provided additional information. It stated that of the at least 375 students included in the report, 199 were socioeconomically disadvantaged. It also stated that 54% of the students were participants in the free or reduced price lunch program. It also stated that 23% of the students were English language learners. Average class size for K-3 was 18 and for grades 4-6 it was 28.

I then looked at the Summary of 2001 API Base Reports for Los Angeles Unified School District (elementary, middle and high schools). It displayed at a glance, the rankings of all of the schools in the district. The LAUSD had more than its share of elementary schools in the lowest rankings and far too few elementary schools in the higher rankings.

I looked at other schools districts within commute range of my job. I looked at the Saugus Union Elementary School District in Santa Clarita. Santa Clarita was about the longest commute I would tolerate, but the homes were generally much newer and lower priced than what was available in West Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.

The 2001 Academic Performance Index (API) Base List of Schools for the Saugus Union Elementary School District listed 13 schools. Six of them had statewide ranks of 10, five had ranks of 9 and the other two had ranks of 8 and 7.

Among the Saugus schools I examined was Rosedell Elementary School. The API Report for that school showed that its statewide rank was 10. When compared with similar California government elementary schools, its similar schools rank was 9.

99% of the student answer documents provided information on Rosedell’s “Parent Education Level”. For this sample, 11% of the parents attended graduate school. 32% of the parents were only college graduates. 36% of the parents had only some college. 19% of the parents were only high school graduates. 2% of the parents had not graduated high school.

The API Report for Rosedell also provided additional information. It stated that of the at least 478 students included in the report, 35 were socioeconomically disadvantaged. It also stated that 6% of the students were participants in the free or reduced price lunch program. It also stated that 1% of the students were English language learners. Average class size for K-3 was 19 and for grades 4-6 it was 29.

Another Saugus elementary school I examined was North Park Elementary School. The API Report for that school showed that its statewide rank was 10. When compared with similar California government elementary schools, its similar schools rank was 6.

95% of the student answer documents provided information on North Park’s “Parent Education Level”. For this sample, 29% of the parents attended graduate school. 42% of the parents were only college graduates. 22% of the parents had only some college. 6% of the parents were only high school graduates. 0% of the parents had not graduated high school.

The API Report for North Park also provided additional information. It stated that of the at least 382 students included in the report, 16 were socioeconomically disadvantaged. It also stated that 5% of the students were participants in the free or reduced price lunch program. It also stated that 3% of the students were English language learners. Average class size for K-3 was 18 and for grades 4-6 it was 29.

As I lamented the death-bed condition of the school district from which I graduated high school in 1973, I noticed additional data that provides an explanation for the poor performance of the students in the LAUSD. Although I am opposed to government collecting racial and ethnic data and voted for the unsuccessful Proposition 54 in 2003 that would have prohibited the state from collecting such data, the collection of such data by the schools provides information that explains what has happened to the LAUSD.

The API Report for Tarzana Elementary School stated that the ethnic/racial characteristics of the students were 46% Hispanic/Latino, 32% White (not of Hispanic origin), 14% Black/African American, 5% Asian/Asian American, 1% Filipino/Filipino American. Tarzana had a statewide rank of 5.

The API Report for Canoga Park Elementary School stated that the ethnic/racial characteristics of the students were 89% Hispanic/Latino, 4% White (not of Hispanic origin), 3% Black/African American, 1% Asian/Asian American, 2% Filipino/Filipino American. Canoga Park had a statewide rank of 1.

The API Report for Noble Avenue Elementary School stated that the ethnic/racial characteristics of the students were 92% Hispanic/Latino, 1% White (not of Hispanic origin), 2% Black/African American, 2% Asian/Asian American, 2% Filipino/Filipino American. Noble had a statewide rank of 1.

The API Report for Carpenter Avenue Elementary School stated that the ethnic/racial characteristics of the students were 14% Hispanic/Latino, 72% White (not of Hispanic origin), 5% Black/African American, 7% Asian/Asian American, 0% Filipino/Filipino American. Carpenter had a statewide rank of 10.

The API Report for Shenandoah Street Elementary School stated that the ethnic/racial characteristics of the students were 70% Hispanic/Latino, 2% White (not of Hispanic origin), 26% Black/African American, 0% Asian/Asian American, 1% Filipino/Filipino American. Shenandoah had a statewide rank of 1.

The API Report for Castle Heights Elementary School stated that the ethnic/racial characteristics of the students were 41% Hispanic/Latino, 27% White (not of Hispanic origin), 21% Black/African American, 7% Asian/Asian American, 3% Filipino/Filipino American. Castle Heights had a statewide rank of 6.

The Ethnicity Report for the LAUSD for 2001-02 states that the district was 71.4% Hispanic or Latino, 9.6% White (not of Hispanic origin), 12.4% African American, 4% Asian, 2% Filipino. (The link will default to the latest year, so select 2001-02.)

The Ethnicity Report for the Saugus Union Elementary School District for 2001-02 states that the district was 15.9% Hispanic or Latino, 74.9% White (not of Hispanic origin), 2.6% African American, 4.6% Asian, 1.5% Filipino.

The API Report for Saugus’ Rosedell Elementary School stated that the ethnic/racial characteristics of the students were 13% Hispanic/Latino, 80% White (not of Hispanic origin), 2% Black/African American, 3% Asian/Asian American, 1% Filipino/Filipino American. Rosedell had a statewide rank of 10.

The API Report for North Park Elementary School stated that the ethnic/racial characteristics of the students were 10% Hispanic/Latino, 77% White (not of Hispanic origin), 3% Black/African American, 5% Asian/Asian American, 3% Filipino/Filipino American. North Park had a statewide rank of 10.

Much of the data on California’s government schools is here. Additional academic performance data is here. If you have a child in a California government school, you should look at it. If you pay taxes in California, especially property taxes, you should look at it. If you drive in California and have to contend with people like me who now drive an extra 30 miles a day to avoid poor academically performing schools, you should look at it. If you live outside of California, but want to see what is in store for your state, you should look at it.

Those who spend our tax money and publicly support what has happened and what is happening, or remain silent about it, have much to answer for. The data does not reflect the results of a controlled and legal migration from Mexico. The numbers only can reflect the results of massive illegal immigration from Mexico that has brought in largely a subset of the population from that country whose children do not speak English and whose academic performance generally is far below what I want for my child. Those who spend our tax money will not tell us how many of the government school students we taxpayers are supporting are here illegally and whose parents came here illegally.

I don’t care about the race and ethnicity of my child’s classmates. I want my child to attend a school with children who are better academic performers than her so that she can learn from her peers. I want my child’s classmates to speak English so that her English skills will develop.

Therefore, I left the LAUSD. I hope my child can graduate from the Saugus Union Elementary School District before it deteriorates like the LAUSD.

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