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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Emery Schools Drop Precipitously: Now Below Oakland Unified

Emery Ranks Last in East Bay

Three Straight Years of Lowering Test Scores 
Yields Second Worst District in Bay Area Status

Emery Unified School District is reeling after the State of California finally released last spring’s academic testing data, revealing its drop in its ranking to the lowest in the East Bay as test scores have fallen for the third straight year according to the annually conducted California Assessment of Student Progress and Performance (CAASPP).  The bad news for Emery was presaged by a ‘sneak peak’ in mid September when three year Emery Superintendent of the Schools John Rubio, pre-released some of the test score data, possibly with an eye to soften the blow of the precipitous drop in ranking as compared with neighboring school districts shown by the CAASPP report.
 Despite Superintendent Rubio’s attempt to spin the bad news, on his watch, academic performance at Emery has consistently dropped, records show.  

The data just released by Sacramento shows an Emery Unified School District in crisis academically.  The district has become the worst scoring in the East Bay, ranking now lower than districts it was above just four years ago including West Contra County, Pittsburg, San Leandro, Hayward and Oakland (who improved their scores last year).  A quick purview of districts throughout the entire Bay Area shows Emery as second only to Ravenswood Unified in East Palo Alto, a district that consistently ranks as among the lowest in the entire state.

The test score data was announced by City Council member Christian Patz at the City/Schools meeting on Wednesday at the ECCL campus.  Mr Patz made the announcement, which included a handout he furnished, as part of a point he was making as the district was pressing its case for installing a police officer at the ECCL campus, a tangent for that agenda item.  Mr Rubio had earlier, during agenda negotiations for the meeting,  refused to allow any CAASPP test data discussion as an agenda item for the Committee.  The Superintendent, who appeared visibly annoyed by Mr Patz’s action, nonetheless refused to answer Tattler questions about why the testing data should not be an agenda item for the Committee.  It should be noted that the City/Schools Committee, a liaison group consisting of all the elected officials of Emeryville (the City Council and the School Board), invests itself with helping provide "quality education" as one of its goals. 

Test score data, especially from a single year, is a problematic barometer to use to show the quality of education a school district offers.  Studies have consistently shown instead academic test scores show the relative affluence of the parents/guardians; poor children testing at lower rates due to a variety of factors unrelated to the school itself.  However, as test scores show the ranking of neighboring districts, especially when compared with those of similar socio/economic conditions, this data is useful to show a district's trend line in the education of its children.  Test score ranking clearly shows Emery falling after three years of Superintendent Rubio at the helm after a brief period of rising scores and higher ranking before Mr Rubio's term.
Superintendent Rubio's tenure has been a rancorous one marked by an ongoing battle with his teachers that has net the worst rate of teacher retention in the East Bay among other calamitous distractions as the Tattler has chronicled. 
Superintendent John Rubio's Legacy
Academic achievement has plunged at Emery since Mr Rubio
was hired at the start of the school year 2014.
Emery's ranking has fallen to last in the East Bay since 2013, 

the last year before Superintendent Rubio came on board. 


  1. Holey moley. Everything else in Emeryville is going good. What's going on at the schools? I had no idea it was this bad.

  2. It's not as much poor test scores as it is dropping in rank vs other districts. That's what the superintendent and the board must answer for. This is inexcusable. Thanks for alerting us.

  3. Do you enjoy hanging out our dirty laundry for all to see? We may not be the best but you don't have to tell the world.

  4. Dirty laundry? It's called news. People have a right to know what their public agencies are doing.

  5. When I receive my annual property tax bill and then see this it makes one ask what are we paying for?

    1. We have a right to expect better than this. The Superintendent, who is very well compensated sets the tone, implements his policy prescriptions and gets the credit if it goes well but also the blame if it doesn't. We should ask the School Board to get him to step aside. If they refuse, as they are, then we should replace the Board (at least three of them). The way towards a functional school district is directly through us. The children are asking us to demand better.

  6. Two points worth noting. You compared two completely different tests as though the results are comparable. They aren't. Every district scored lower on CAASP than STAR, and it appears that those at the low end of the spectrum fell precipitously which likely tells us that the CAASP tests different things than the STAR (and it does) and that Emeryville likely has weaknesses in the areas the new test covers that the old test didn't. In other words, without the intermediate years, we don't know if the problem is the change in test, a change in teaching, or a change in the composition of the students.

    What would be more helpful would be to compare the 2015 CAASP to the 2017 CASSP, and to compare the performance of individual groups of students who were in the school throughout the period. Without that, the results you presented don't tell us much.

    Second point. If the numbers do represent a decline in performance, then getting rid of low performing teachers is a good thing. You seem to be arguing at cross purposes to yourself:

    a) we have lousy test scores
    b) we should be retaining a higher percentage of teachers

    This isn't at all clear. If test scores are bad, the ability and performance of the teachers is the most likely issue. That's not to say that the right teachers are being removed (which would be another interesting way to look at the data), but why would we want a high retention of teachers whose students are getting worse and worse?

    1. The State of California stopped administering the STAR test and has switched over to the CAASPP, a different test as you say. They switch tests every so often in their constant search for equitable testing (or politics). This fact however doesn't tie our hands when it comes to government accountability even as Superintendent would probably like it to be so. We are still able to extrapolate data on test scores and even more importantly, ranking. When that is done and in Mr Rubio's case, Emery is plunging on both counts without question. If we were to give in to this kind of thinking, there would never be any way for the people (or the State) to hold their school district to account. Luckily that's not the case.
      Your thinking is flawed on holding teachers accountable for student test scores because teachers cannot control a student's out-of-school life, the dysfunction of which is the reason poor children consistently get lower test results. This is extremely well documented BTW. Police rank and file are not responsible for increasing crime and teachers aren't responsible for low test scores. Regarding lowering ranking; it is the administration (Superintendent Rubio) that is accountable for that. Veteran teachers are shown to be the best way to increase academic performance and good teacher retention is the way to keep veteran teachers. This is proven in many studies and is accepted as factual among pedagogical experts. Mr Rubio has been busy firing and chasing away teachers (hence the worst teacher retention in the East Bay) creating a toxic work environment. The conditions of Emery Unified are a direct result of the Superintendent's poor job performance and his lack of leadership. The buck stops with the guy making $200,000 per year.

  7. So you are arguing that you can't hold "teachers accountable for student test scores because teachers cannot control a student's out-of-school life". Ok. But the whole point of your article is that the Superintendent SHOULD be held responsible for the rank based on those test scores...the test scores that neither he nor the teachers have any control of.

    If test scores largely track poverty level as you argue, then the test scores would likely just be reflecting an increasing poverty level of the children attending public schools in Emeryville.

    You do not need a high retention rate to have veteran teachers.
    Veteran teachers can also be hired. That's a much faster solution. The question is whether the Superintendent is getting rid of inexperienced and/or poor teachers and replacing them with more experienced and/or better ones. If he is, then he's doing his job. If he's not, then he's not.

    I would be much more worried if Emeryville had declining test scores and wasn't making changes. Whether the changes are the right ones remains to be seen, but when the team is losing, you need to make some trades.

    Do you have access to the 2015 scores with the CAASPP? Those would be interesting to compare to 2017 and might tell us a lot more. If 2015 looks like 2017 then there's a good chance the scores are just reflecting differences in the testing.

    1. Our new superintendent comes in and immediately starts a war on teachers. They start leaving, forced out, quit in disgust or fired. He puts in more administrators leaving Emery with the highest admin to child ratio of any school district in the East Bay. All those administers cost a lot of money so Emery is paying more per student than any school district in the East Bay. Test scores start dropping his first year in office after having raised in years before he got here. Rubio ramps up his war on teachers using what they call racist and bullying practices, driving more out of Emery. Now they're leaving in droves.
      Test scores continue to fall. Now three years later, Emery has the worst teacher retention record in the East Bay, virtually all the veteran teachers gone (new young teachers are easier to manipulate) and now Emery has the worst test scores netting the lowest ranking. And you're arguing he's doing a great job...that we have to get rid of more teachers. Sorry, not cogent. Rubio tried your way and the numbers tell the tale.

  8. Hi, Brian,

    There are three issues I would like to raise regarding your article.

    One of your readers has already questioned your apples to oranges comparison of different tests. It is important to present the data in a way that accurately compares the test results so that the reader can better understand how Emery USD measures up against other districts and itself from year to year. Presenting data from different tests is not helpful in furthering this understanding. As you know, last year teachers and staff were focused on the move to ECCL. Moving into a new facility is a lot of work and our staff did an incredible job of acclimating to the new campus.

    Secondly, the Superintendent made some great changes, including hiring a principal for the middle school. As I recall, your main reason for leaving the District was that you felt that not enough resources were being devoted to the middle school. After countless hours spent searching for the best teachers and leaders, Emery USD now has an energized middle school program focused on the educational needs of middle school students.

    Teachers, staff and the community are working hard to improve our schools. Emery USD and the city of Emeryville have worked together for many years to make good schools in Emeryville a reality. Much time and effort have gone into building this lovely new facility for our children and community. We have never been in a better position to reach this goal than now.

    Lisa Taymuree
    Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent

  9. There's no way anything about academic performance can be learned because the State changed the test? How convenient!

    Meanwhile, back here in reality, we know that the Common Core concept drove the new CAASPP test and most districts lowered their scores as a result (see the charts in the story above). The CAASPP has been administered for three years running now...the same three years this superintendent has been employed by Emery in total. And we're worse off now at the close of year three of the test than we were in the first year. That's going backwards, by any (reasonable person's) measure. But the story isn't about test scores as I've made very clear. It's about ranking, isn't it? That means we can see Emery plunging against all school districts that are all taking the same tests. Because every other district also changed from STAR to CAASPP at the same time. That's comparing apples and apples. So you can see, our hands are in fact not tied; we can see how we're doing compared with ourself and compared with other districts. And we can clearly see this district is fading under this superintendent. Anyone that's not an ideologue can see it.

    RE: middle school- There is no middle school at Emery. There's only the elementary school and the high school. Says who? Says Emery Unified School District. The two schools have names; they are Anna Yates Elementary School and Emery Secondary School. The District's own website confirms that there are only two schools. If you can detect a middle school (that the District strangely left off its own website), we'd like to know; what is its name?

    1. Without the 2015 CAASPP results, you can't make the conclusion you're making.

      There's no good reason to compare 2013 STAR results to 2017 CAASPP results when the 2015 CAASPP results are available. If Emeryville's results fell of a cliff in 2015 with the change of the test, then the change in tests is almost certainly the primary factor. If we see 2015 results that are quite a bit higher and they decline significantly to 2017, then the teachers and superintendent should bear the blame (assuming there wasn't a major change in the student population).

      We would expect the 2015 results to largely be based on the work of the superintendent's predecessors, and then as his changes begin to have an effect (positive or negative), we would expect to begin see that impact in 2016 and 2017.

      We can make an apples to apples comparison of test scores here, so why go back to a 2013 result using a different test? We need to see the 2015 results and then, if we believe test scores are a good metric, we'll know if we're going forward or backward or sideways.

    2. It's unclear to me why you are having such a problem with this. I'll explain it again, taking you at your word that you're not an anti public school ideologue.
      The 2015 CAASPP test score results are on the link I provided. To answer your question (which you can check), the school year 2012/13 (referred to as the 2013 year) was the last year before Rubio took over. It was also the last year of the STAR test. As you can see, virtually every school district's test scores fell in the first year of the new test (CAASPP), including Emery. Because the new test is different, there no way to directly correlate the scores between the two tests. Because everyone scored lower on the new test, you shouldn't assume that all children in California suddenly got worse at taking tests. So 2013/14 is Rubio's first year and it's also the first year of CAASPP. Set those results to the side for a moment. Now the 2016/17 results are in. As you can see (again check the link to the State of California website I provided), the CAASPP scores are lower now than they were in 2013/14, Rubio's first year. As time moves forward, Emery gets worse. But conversely, as time moves forward, other school districts do better than Emery and pass us by. That's called getting worse in test scores and getting worse in rankings.
      During all his tenure, Rubio has been an agent of destruction when it comes to the teachers. He has been very busy pushing veteran teachers out and hiring new young ones. This whole scheme is Rubio's doing. The lowering of academic achievement at Emery is solely his deal. He owns it (even as he tries to spin out of it and even as you try to blame the teachers). The one thing that could have stopped this drop in scores and ranking is the same thing that has been destroyed by Rubio. To hold Rubio blameless is to reveal your position as an anti public school ideologue (there are plenty of them around...check the E'Ville Eye for that).

  10. I don't think the 2015 and 2017 CAASPP results show what you're suggesting. They show largely flat results overall. They also show dramatically inconsistent results across classes which suggests possibly large inconsistencies in quality among teachers or fluctuating enrollment patterns (or possibly just the variance of a small sample size). You can see groups of students who were underperforming at the lower grade levels continuing to underperform at the higher grade levels.

    English Language Arts/Literacy: 2015 / 2017
    Standard not met: 49% / 49%
    Standard nearly met: 27% / 28%
    Standard met: 18% / 17%
    Standard exceeded: 16% / 16%

    Mathematics: 2015 / 2017
    Standard not met: 50% / 49%
    Standard nearly met: 26% / 29%
    Standard met: 17% / 15%
    Standard exceeded: 7% / 8%

    I think your point that other districts are improving and Emery is not might be explained more by the gentrification patterns in those communities versus Emeryville. Oakland and other surrounding communities are seeing what you might call "gentrification in" where medium income families (and their higher testing students) are coming into low-income public school communities. Emeryville, given its small size and underperforming schools, may be seeing "gentrification out" where higher income families flee to private schools.

    The most interesting thing in these results to me is the difference between the performance of the students currently entering 7th to 9th grade versus the performance of the students currently entering 4th to 6th grade. The test scores seem to suggest that the younger group got a much better education (or possibly are just better students).

    1. OK last time: For the three years Mr Rubio has been superintendent at Emery, the children all tested using the same CAAPSS. The trend has been DOWN during those years. That means the test results in his first year here were higher than his last year here. Do you understand that? Go ahead and check that; compare the scores from Rubio's first year with his last year here and see what you find. If you want to say that the results between year two and year three were "flat" while ignoring year one, then you are cherry picking the results to show Mr Rubio not doing as badly as he actually is. So why would you do that? Why aren't you looking to answer the following question (the question that goes to the core of the matter): since John Rubio has been hired on as superintendent at Emery, have test scores gone up or down? Has Emery's ranking gone up or down? Your dodge of this most basic question (two actually) is very informative and it drives another question: You seem comfortable with data, especially as it can be used to obfuscate... Mr Anonymous; are the initials of your real name JR?

  11. The trend has not been down during the last three years at Emery. Look at the results. The trend has been completely flat. The numbers are almost identical between 2015 and 2017.

    The reason 2014 was not included in the results is that they don't provide it on the page linked. The drop down menu only gives access to 2015-2017. Do you have access to 2014 at another link somewhere? If so, please share the link. Let's see what it says.

    Given that Rubio appears to have been appointed in May 2014 and probably didn't instantly change everything, it's reasonable to assume that 2015 scores are largely attributable to whatever condition he found when he arrived. I would assume he spent a large part of his first year evaluating the situation and his impact probably doesn't start to be felt until mid-way through the 2014-2015 school year.

    So 2015 scores are probably the best baseline. But sure, get us 2014 if you have those numbers. By 2016 or 2017, we should say he fully 'owns' the results.

    You seem determined to use the test results to arrive at the conclusion you want to reach. But the test results you've presented don't support your conclusion. Nor do the test results from 2015 to 2017.

    And no, I'm not John Rubio.

    BTW, do you ever write anything that isn't just an attack on someone you don't like or disagree with? Nearly 100% of the articles on this site are hit pieces. I tried to find one where you weren't attacking someone. They're all the same. It's kind of boring.

    Isn't there more to life than trashing people? Maybe write about the good things happening, the people making a positive difference, and the interesting things being done.

    There's only so much bitching that a reader can take.

    1. I've been on vacation, hence the wait for the post and a reply.

      Here's Rubio's time at Emery, reflected in the CAASPP test results (from the State website that you can't seem to find).

      Percent proficient and above:
      English Language Arts
      2015 28%
      2016 30%
      2017 25%

      2015 22%
      2016 26%
      2017 21%

      So as you can see, the test results are DOWN since he took office. But as I make very clear in the story you find so objectionable, it's not about test scores; it's about ranking. While Emery has gone down, the other districts have been improving. That's not teachers, that's Rubio. There was a huge exodus of teachers in his first year. They were all bad if you listen to him. He should have replaced them with good teachers if you listen to him...supposing that's true, why have the scores continued down and the ranking also down. This is clearly on the chief administrator. Unless as I've said you're an ideologue.
      RE "hit pieces" Yes, that's what we do here at the Tattler. We report when the government elite or the business elite don't do what they're supposed to do. That's called an attack. We disagree with them because we say they're supposed to do what they're supposed to do. Then we "trash" them. We're not interested when they do as they're supposed to do. That's called "not news". If we were interested in that, we'd be writing about the newest ramen shop opening at the Public Market. There is more to life than trashing people; that's the life I lead outside the Tattler. It sounds like this "bitching" is more than you can take so it's off to the E'Ville Eye with you. Your neighbors that ARE interested in when the government screws up and wastes their money or when developers get sweetheart deals that aren't open to commoners or when a politician breaks a campaign promise can continue to read the Tattler. That's not stuff the E'Ville Eye is interested in reporting and so you'll be happier over there. Off you go... Good luck to you.