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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Early Release of Test Scores Reveals a Failing Emery School District

Prospects for African American Students 
Dim at Emery

Teachers Warning of Consequences of "Racist Practices"
Appear to be Vindicated

Black Students "Not Served"

News Analysis
Emery Unified School District released an early peek at last season’s yet to be officially released state sanctioned student test scores at Wednesday’s School Board meeting revealing a school wide drop in academic achievement and a district with vexatious problems educating African American students specifically. The disturbing figures come on the heels of a June 15th School Board meeting where nine teachers rose to give warning of such negative consequences as a result of “racist practices” implemented by School Superintendent John Rubio.
 At the Wednesday night meeting, high school principal Jessica Goode said the numbers she called “repugnant”, showed that African American students “are not being served” at the beleaguered school district despite an attempt by Mr Rubio to spin the data to show the opposite.

The presenter of the data at the meeting, Dr Kell, an Emery administrator, indicated the District has formulated a plan to deal with the plunging test scores involving "integrating horizontal and vertical coherence" and a call to "improve the organizational climate" among other ideas. The three Board members attending the meeting Wednesday night seemed to take the bad news in stride but member Cruz Vargas said he was happy the District had come up with a plan to turn the numbers around for next year.
School Board Member
Cruz Vargas

A self described "numbers man",
Cruz didn't say anything about the low
test score numbers but he's happy
there's a plan to turn test scores
 around for next year.

The taxpayer investment of $100 million in a new school campus last year had no affect on a persistent pattern of falling test scores at Emery since Superintendent Rubio was hired three years ago. Despite a decade of promises that the gleaming new facilities at the Emeryville Center of Community Life would help bring up scores on their own, the bad numbers revealed Wednesday were seen by the Superintendent as a chance to countervail the charges of racism from the teachers by using the data to show a rising African American student cohort as compared with others even as test scores within that cohort still showed a decline.

District Spins Racial Achievement Gap 
The achievement gap is measured as the difference between the highest achieving racial cohort, traditionally Asians at Emery and their inverse, African Americans.  Mr Rubio took pains to show a closing gap between academic school year 2015-16 and 2016-17 by using plunging test scores of Asian students, an 11% drop, contrasted by African American student’s drop of 4% netting a 8% drop in the achievement gap in English Language test scores.  The exercise in abject legerdemain by Mr Rubio net a 9% drop in the math achievement gap using the same tactics, leveraging a 12% drop in Asian student test scores against a 3% drop for African Americans.  If the Superintendent was queasy massaging the numbers to show student success by highlighting one group of student's relative uptick by leveraging the failure of another group, he didn't show it.

Rubio Celebrates 'Student Success' 
While the Superintendent unveiled his brand after he was hired by the Board in the form of a new slogan for Emery, “Partners Power Student Success”, Emery Unified’s state testing results have deteriorated since the implementation of the new slogan, this year’s being the worst yet. The preliminary data given Wednesday proved 75% of students did not meet the state standards in English Language Arts.  Last year less than 1 in 3 students met the English Language Art Standards.   Only 30% of the students were proficient or above in ELA, tied with Oakland Schools.  Now down to 1 in 4, it’s possible Emery has dropped below Oakland.  In Math, the story is even worse.  About 1 in 5 students met the standard for mathematics.  Only 79% of the students failed to meet the standard. Last year, Emery was 1% higher than OUSD causing speculation about if that stays true, or given the trajectory, if Emery is now already at the bottom of Alameda County Schools.

A Brief Rise Before Rubio, Then Return To Failure 
The goal of building the Emeryville Center of Community Life was to build on the success that Emery achieved after coming out of receivership.  From 2007 to 2010, Emery improved its academic achievement each year.  Testing was suspended by the state as California transitioned to the Common Core and computer based ‘Smarter Balanced’ assessments.  Testing resumed in Mr Rubio’s first year with the district and that’s when the progress stalled, then reversed.  Each subsequent year as test scores are released, Emery struggles to paint a rosy picture and urges patience until a new plan takes effect for the next year.  Last year at a presentation by the new high school principal, Ms. Goode, she described her plan to improve math performance.  One Board member at the time, Christian Patz (currently a City Council Member) questioned how the new plan was different from the previous plan.  Ms. Goode did not have an answer.
The same could have been asked of the newest plan, rich in arcane academic jargon but lacking in detail, regardless of the excited exclamations from Board member Vargas who as a self described “numbers man” has said he understands that ‘rebranding’ matters and the use of words like ‘innovation’ are good tools to flash.

Black Students Not Served
There were some positives in this year's test scores, white students improved their math and language arts scores by 5%.  Interesting since Mr Rubio worked hard to change Emery’s previous mission statement which included the phrase, “To End Racist and Classist Practices.” Since that change, outgoing staff have told the school board about their concerns about how people of color are treated on campus.  Now the achievement gap, the difference between the how students of color do versus white has grown, despite the Superintendent’s attempt to obscure that fact.  White students attending Emery were twice as likely to have met the standards in math than African American students.  The gap was even larger in English Language Arts.  The achievement gap at Emery is significantly smaller than the gap in state test scores (based on prior year tests) because white students in Emery score well below the state average, as do African American students.  Asian students in Emery had the biggest decline, dropping double digits in both Language Arts and Math.  English Learners remained about the same, while Latinos, the fastest growing group at Emery and the state, matched the District’s 5% drop.

It should be noted that the scores reported come from the district’s presentation to the school board on September 13, 2017.  The state has not yet released scores to the public.  Comparisons to other districts or the state for this story were made using last year’s scores and the numbers just pre-released by Emery.


  1. As much as I dislike Rubio, he really can't be held responsible for test scores. And his attempt to see the bright side of this is understandable. What do you expect him to say? Everything sucks at Emery?

  2. Disgraceful. Everything this district touches turns to crap. After all the money we've thrown at them this is the best they can do. Brian is right, time to get rid of Rubio and the top admin. Lets stop blaming the teachers and start blaming the administrators. This district is top heavy. All those resources and so few students. It's a shame.

  3. I was present at the last PTO meeting.
    I asked Mr Vargas if he any children at the school. A couple of brown nosers scoffed at me audibly and with their eyes. Mr Vargas held his hand up and touched thumb to forefinger to form a zero. "No, but blah blah blah...." ad infinitum. This is the SAME board present through the last few "debacles". Time for you and maybe everyone else to go, Vargas.

    1. Thanks for the comment but you should be aware there is one clear dissenter among the Board members and that is Barbara Inch. Ms Inch has challenged Mr Rubio and the Board majority pretty consistently. Also member Brynnda Collins has positioned herself as a (sometime) dissenter. The other three can be fairly characterized as 'Rubio enablers'. They back him no matter what (self inflicted) debacle transpires. So I think you could make a cogent argument that at least for three of them, it's time to go.

  4. We need actual representatives without alternatives [Motives].

  5. Not ONE single board member on board who has children! Time for you guys to go!

  6. Time for Rubio to go. No more meaningless excuses. No more pointless slogans. Rubio has had more than enough time and money to turn this very small district around and he has consistently failed. I have good idea, let's hire expensive and useless outside consultants who than then write useless reports firmly rooted in educational babble. Post Rubio, the next Superintendents salary should be job performance based, test score based and not based on excuses, educational babble and unfulfilled hope for future years. I am sorry I voted for the bonds for the new school as that was obviously not the answer to improvements in educational performance.

  7. I am the black parents of a black child, as a matter of fact a black 9 year old young man at eccl. I have personal experience with the racist practices of the eccl staff members and the district at large. I am deeply concerned about this and other threats to our children's safety which have come to light in addition to the fact that those in charge or Those whom we charged with the safety of our children are the very ones who are intrical in the cover-up of crimes committed against our children on the school grounds. Dr. John Rubio is a slick-talking, highly paid corrupt individual who needs to go and it is up to other responsible individuals to see that John Rubio is no longer the superintendent of the Emeryville School District. We've got a crook in the white house and we got a crook at the helm here in the district. How can we seriously look up to such an individual and respect whatever supposed Authority they believe they have when they don't respect the safety of our children.