S.B. Black Student Grades Worst of All
By Dianne Anderson
Local Black students are barely eking out a passing grade enough to graduate high school, let alone have eyes on higher education goals.
Closing the vast test score gap is a conundrum, which depends on parent involvement and pushing more money for those most at risk of being failed by the education system.
But first, getting a handle on the data helps.
EdSource reports that San Bernardino City Unified’s overall test results for 2023 show that 31.89% of all groups of students met or exceeded the state standard in English, while 68.1% did not. In Math, only 19.8% of all students met or exceeded the state standard, with 80.2% not meeting it.
That’s the big picture, but it’s worse for Black students.
Before COVID in 2018, EdSource reported that 29.02% of Black students met or exceeded the English standard, compared to 40.35% of Latino, 52.48% of whites, and 60.05% of Asian students. For Math, 14.19% of Black students met or exceeded the standard, compared to 26.33% of Latino, 37.55% of whites, and 51.34% of Asian students.
At last count for 2023, 22.96% of Black students met or exceeded the English standard, compared to 31.57% of Latino, 43.25% of whites and 53.18% of Asian students. For Math, 11.55% of Black students met or exceeded the standard, compared to 19.61% of Latino, 28.77% of whites, and 41.14% of Asian students.
Local advocate Linda Hart has a grandchild in the district and is very concerned with the low performance of Black students.
Last week, she attended a Black parent advisory meeting and inquired why the achievement numbers were available for all groups of students, but not Black students. They said it would be available at the next meeting.
“Why would you not bring data for African American students at an African American parent committee meeting? It’s not that I don’t want to know the overall data, but I specifically want to know about Black students,” she said.
Black parents must also be more engaged regarding their schools and funding allocations, she said. With policies and practices, she said it’s unfair, but subtle discrimination is eliminating the advancement of Black students.
She recalls the late legendary activist Frances Grice, who often stayed at school board meetings, if needed, until after midnight to get equity for Black students.
“Banging on tables. Black people have to get engaged. If you’re not at the table, no one is going to be sitting there advocating for Black students. If we’re not there, we can’t be upset,” she said.
Lawrence Hardy said Black parents who missed last week’s meeting can participate in other programs, including the African American Parent Advisory Committees now expanding to different school sites.
“The committee will give parents a voice and a platform to be able to be involved in decision making in things that we do in the district to affect the progress of their students in the district,” said Hardy, program specialist with Family Engagement at San Bernardino City Unified School District.
The District African-American Advisory Council also meets the first Thursday monthly to share updates, and an education counselor works with Black scholars to ensure A-G compliance for upper division courses.
In his position, he often goes out to home visits, and sees a lot of chronic absenteeism.
“We have growth and improvement for the last two years, but we’re still not there yet. There’s a lot of work to do. It’s taking steps and building good systems, and looking at data to see what’s working,” he said.
Money is a factor. About 80,000 African American students or just over a quarter are not receiving additional supplemental funding or accountability through the LCFF, according to the nonprofit, Black In School.
“Unfunded African American students are the only subgroup performing below the statewide average on ELA and Math that is not already receiving an LCFF supplement. That is to say that while the entirety of the current subgroups in the unduplicated pupil count receives supplemental funding, only a portion of the lowest-performing subgroup realizes this benefit,” states the Black In School website.
Last week, the district superintendent announced that 1,351 SBCUSD graduates earned over $9 million in scholarships and grants.
An SBCUSD spokesperson said they do not track scholarship awards by student ethnicity, and are unable to tell what percentage of scholarship dollars went to African-American students.
Spokesperson Corina Borsuk said the district works with CSUSB Project Impact to recruit, and other venues to hire and retain Black teachers, such as HBCUs, emergency credential hiring of African American candidates when feasible. They also provide tuition reimbursement for guest teachers pursuing teaching credentials, among other efforts.
“Since 2016, SBCUSD has developed intentional recruitment strategies to attract and hire African-American teachers. Annually the District hires approximately 250 new teachers. On average 10% of our new teacher hires are African American. This is a 5% increase from pre-2016 numbers; however since 2020 the District has seen a shortage of African American teacher candidates at the University level,” she said in an email.
Dr. Will Greer said a recent bill, AB 2774, pushed for funding to include $400 million for Black students as part of the lowest Math and English performing subgroups. That bill was pulled under pressure of Prop 209 violation, but there is a different version of the bill with the “equity multiplier” language that he said may provide some benefit.
At this point, LCAP Local Control Funding Formula doesn’t specifically name Black students in its language as a high-need student group. It names others, such as English learners, low income students and foster students.
“Ninety percent of our Black students are low income so they’re being supported, but these aren’t necessarily dollars aimed at closing racial achievement gaps,” said Dr. Greer, Director of the District’s Department of Equity & Targeted Student Achievement.
Districts must specifically address racial achievement, but without the capacity and funding, he said they usually miss the mark. He has asked, but hasn’t met anyone at the state or national level with similar sized urban school districts that have closed the gap for Black students.
“I have not heard yes yet,” he said. “We aspire to be the first that closes the gap, and creates excellence for Black kids.”
While efforts like Savant Preparatory Academy of Business are scoring higher than the state on their test results, Greer said the difference is size and the approach can’t be replicated to scale.
“School culture and high expectations for learning with Eva and Jeanette, they are phenomenal. When you look at those scores you are talking dozens of kids compared to SBCUSD 3,000 certificated staff members, over 2,000 are teachers in 2,000 classes,” he said.
Despite the challenges, he is encouraged to be growing the district’s Equity Department.
This year and last, he increased tutoring services for Black students. Before the pandemic, the Math data showed 70-80% of students making a D or F in math. Grades are improving since hiring three school equity counselors and an additional counselor only serving Black students. They regularly meet and check in with grades, and Math tutors specifically work one-on-one with higher needs Black students inside the classroom.
Currently, his equity department has 13 full-time staff employees, while most other districts only have one staff member.
“We doubled the department size twice [since COVID], and I’m pushing for a full-time 64-person department,” he said. “One challenge is that equity departments don’t have the capacity, the other challenge is they don’t have the funds.”
Terrance Stone, whose nonprofit also works with local schools, said their film “Student Voice” from a few years ago features a compilation of student input, both good and bad, about the education and miseducation of the system.
The film was selected for screening and is nominated for an ETHOS Award 2023.
One problem that stood out to Stone was how Black kids lack role models. In talking and trying to break up fights with Black and Latino students in the High Desert, he asked both groups of kids individually what they would consider to be their dream job.
“I asked, what do you want to do besides this? Kids who were not African American wanted to be engineers, doctors, CEOs, the military, or law enforcement and pilots. They had goals because they had been around successful people that looked like them,” said Stone, founder and CEO of Young Visionaries Youth Leadership Academy.
After that, he asked the Black students the same question.
“They wanted to be in the NFL, to be rappers, or Instagram and Youtubers. They are just looking at stuff that is attainable in their mind. In the dynamic of both of those groups – rappers and Youtubers, it doesn’t take a lot of education.”
To see more on Black Parent involvement, https://www.sbcusd.com/get-involved/parent-groups
For the latest Black California Smarter Balanced performance data from EdSource, see
For Black in School, see https://www.blackinschool.org/
For the LCAP Equity Multiplier, https://bit.ly/3u3ezdZ
To see “Student Voice,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5bsarAFIn4