Oceanside High School
Aerial view of Oceanside High School. Image from school video

The latest data on academic performance in our state is in, and it’s not good. 

California uses the Smarter Balanced (SBAC) testing to assess performance, part of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP.) Pre-Covid results were already miserable, and post-Covid they’ve gotten worse.

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In 2019 only about half (51.10%) of our kids were proficient in English, and less than half (39.73%) in math. After the pandemic pause full testing in 2022 revealed huge declines. English results continued to fall, dropping four points to 47.06% and math showed a whopping decline of over six points to 33.38%. 

Now, in recently-released results for 2023, we see English performance continue to decline, and a small recovery in math. Only 46.66% of our kids are now proficient in English, and, although up a half point, only 34.62% of kids meet state standards for proficiency in math. Both measures are still significantly (and alarmingly, at least for parents) lower than prior to Covid. 

We know the excessive school closures caused tremendous damage to the education of kids. This was predictable to the small group of parents that gathered in 2020 to start the Parent Association and fight those closures. Going up against the union machinery and an education establishment determined to keep schools closed, parents eventually won in court, but not before serious harm was done. The results of that are now clear.

The Parent Association is concerned with the education of all kids in our state, but as a director of the Oceanside chapter I have special concerns about my own district, Oceanside Unified

There we see the same story repeated. Every trustee owes some part of their election to union support, almost every vote on union-backed proposals is unanimous. During the pandemic OUSD ignored hundreds of parents who knew better. Not even one trustee felt the need to actually represent the people who elected them, so Oceanside schools stayed closed until forced to open.

And the (again, predictable) result? Oceanside’s already substandard academic performance got worse, and 2023 results show almost no change. English performance continues to decline, with only 41% of our kids proficient. Math is a bright spot, if you can call it that, with results showing a small improvement from last year. We’ve gone from slightly less than 29% meeting state standards to slightly more. Parents are not popping corks over that. 

All this despite massive funding given to our schools specifically to prevent this. Oceanside was given $58 million in pandemic assistance. Which has resulted in almost no change. 

Parents have seen this and have been speaking out at board meetings in ever greater numbers. Pointing out they see the failures, suggesting solutions, asking (and sometimes demanding) the district do something.

The board’s response? Not to hold the district accountable to fix the problem, but to turn off the microphone. They simply don’t want to hear it. Oceanside has instituted some of the most severe restrictions to public comment at board meetings possible. To further hide the issues livestreamed meetings, which are now the standard for almost every board meeting in the county, were terminated. 

An email discussing the policy change, obtained through a public records request, quotes a trustee saying this is being done “to help stem the tide of significant, repetitive invective voiced ad infinitum at our board meetings going on for more than 2 years now.” He goes on to mention the termination of streaming in the next sentence.

To defend this the district’s Communication Director Donald Bendz then told the Coast News’ Samantha Nelson that “the change honors requests from the public.” OUSD has been not provided any examples of such requests.

Parents thought this was just more evidence of contempt for parent input, they didn’t realize it was just preparation for the release of data confirming OUSD’s continued failure. Why would the board want to listen to parents upset that $58 million was provided to improve the education of their kids and the district has done nothing with it, except improve their own pay

We have elections coming up in 2024. Perhaps it’s time to support candidates who will not rubber-stamp the policies that have resulted in such poor performance? Perhaps it’s time for a school board that believes parents should have some input over the education of their kids? 

We need action, not words, to save the education of our kids.

Todd Maddison is a co-founder of the Parent Association and San Diego Schools parent advocacy groups, and the director of research for the Transparent California government watchdog website.