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Bridging the Gap

We like to think of our classrooms as level playing fields where any ambitious student can reach his or her full potential. But while a number of Orange County schools are beating the odds, many students are left on the other side of a growing achievement gap that becomes harder to overcome without sufficient resources and support.

Only 55 percent of Orange County third graders are at proficient reading levels.      
By the Numbers: 62% of Orange County students do not meet CSU/UC requirements
Source: California Department of Education, 2012 STAR Test Results - Orange County    

GraduateHelping every child receive a high-quality education is one of the best ways to ensure a productive, successful future. But a startling number of Orange County students don’t have access to the necessary skills and resources they need to succeed.

Children who start school behind their peers are likely to slip further and further behind. Schools, under pressure to stick to a fast-paced curriculum, are not always equipped to provide enough individual attention to help kids catch up. And parents who struggle economically have less time—and often, ability—to help with schoolwork.

The Academic Performance Index (API) is a measurement of academic performance and progress of individual schools in California. In 2011, 70 percent of Orange County schools met the state API target of 800, with scores ranging from 921 (Irvine Unified) to 740 (Santa Ana Unified).

And yet not all schools are performing on par. Even districts scoring above the state target demonstrate academic disparity: Newport-Mesa Unified, a district with pockets of both extreme wealth and poverty, scored above target. However, individual schools within the district ranged between 685 and 950—a microcosm of the divisions within Orange County.

Once students reach high school, the educational divide becomes even greater. Only 38 percent of Orange County high school students complete courses required for California State University and University of California admissions.

Students who fall behind may end up not graduating from high school or continuing their education, which can have a major impact on their earning potential, ability to meet basic life needs, and involvement in their own children’s education in the future.

Facing the Issues

  • The proportion of English language learners in Orange County is higher than state and national averages.
  • There are only enough licensed pre-school slots for half of 3- to 4-year-olds in Orange County; research shows this is a critical driver of success.
  • Public schools lack resources necessary to address the achievement gap. Funding shortages result in larger class sizes and fewer school days.