Improving Public Education, Healing Wounds after Election

I believe San Jose Mayor-elect Sam Liccardo will carry on the work Chuck Reed has done in trying to eliminate the achievement gap by 2020. A huge, sincere thank you to Mayor Reed for having the vision to lead on this critical effort since a kickoff meeting held at the City Hall Rotunda in 2010.

Superintendents, charter school operators, principals, elected school board members, teachers and community members have been instrumental in moving the student achievement agenda forward these last four years. Yet there still is so much more work that needs to be done.

As we turn the page on the election, Liccardo and Dave Cortese each have an enormous responsibility to heal the wounds created by the race. I am confident that their grounding in the Bellarmine Jesuit ideal—being a "man for others"—they will cooperate to accomplish this goal in their positions as mayor and county supervisor.

On Wednesday, Innovate Public Schools released a new report titled, “Struggling Schools, Promising Solutions.” It chronicles the 28lowest performing schools in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. The data to determine this rank used disaggregated scores by free and reduced lunch, ethnicity and English learners. Scores on the California Standards Test (CST) and the disaggregated Academic Performance Index (API) from 2008-2013 were also used to compare and contrast all publicly funded schools in both counties.

San Jose is home to 14 of the 28 schools on the list, from elementary through high school. The report's call to action implores decision makers, educators, parents, business leaders and the public to work toward immediate solutions for these students.

And yet, the initial response to the report shows the "war" is only intensifying between traditional public school educators and the charter movement. The new report has created more derision and unrest in the public school world. Chris Funk, superintendent of East Side Union High School District, told the Mercury News, “They’re still living in the past and trying to use this report as an advertisement for charter schools.”

Funk’s criticism might hold water, as his district and Franklin-McKinley have four underperforming schools in the report, and three listed as “rising stars” have worked to address achievement gap concerns for several years.

Finding solutions is a complex task that requires cooperation and teamwork from district, county and city leaders at the highest levels. Money is important, but it comes secondary to implementing a plan that has been demonstrated to work in other districts, cities and states. The report lays out promising practices that must be considered.

It’s time to put away the swords and work together. Both Liccardo and Cortese are key leaders in facilitating the reconciliation and moving forward on behalf of all our children.

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native. His columns reflect his personal opinion.


  1. > Superintendents, charter school operators, principals, elected school board members, teachers and community members have been instrumental in moving the student achievement agenda forward these last four years.

    I’m curious.

    Does this convoluted sentence say that the “student achievement gap” has been reduced?

    And, IF it has been reduced, HOW has it been reduced?

    Was it reduced by lowing the achievement of high performing students?

    Or, was it reduced by raising the achievement of low performing students?

    Has the achievement of ALL students been raised?

    Anyone with half a brain knows that when do gooders talk about “ending inequality”, they allow people to believe that they’re talking about making poor people richer, when what they really want is to “level everyone down.”

  2. More PC BS from DiSalvo. Just how do you expect to raise the achievement of lazy, indifferent, students whose parents take little or no interest in their kids’ educations? This doesn’t even count gang members and kids from families whose parents don’t bother to learn English, no matter how long they have lived in the USA. Everyone is entitled to equal opportunity. If they choose not to take advantage of the opportunity…oh well. Pass legislation that you can’t get welfare if you don’t graduate high school or get your GED and you’ll see fewer dropouts. Todos los vagos conprenden dinero.

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