Santee Education Complex is a high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), located in South Central Los Angeles. It was built in 2005 with the special distinction of being the first new four-year high school to open in LAUSD in over 35 years.
Immediately after its opening, Santee dealt with issues around school safety, low student achievement, low graduation rates, and negative media attention. As it approached its ten-year anniversary, Santee was experiencing declining enrollment and an overall negative perception within the local community.
In 2007, The Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS) was established to provide support and resources to some of the highest-need schools in the LAUSD. With the support of PLAS’s Leadership, Santee was able to bring in the right leadership and tools to begin addressing the issues.
Tracing the problems to the root, Santee realized a few main factors that contributed to the failed environment. Overall, the school faced a gap in aspirations as well as unhealthy beliefs held by the staff regarding their student population.
In 2013, PLAS adopted Illuminate Education’s Data & Assessment system (DnA) as their main data, reporting, and assessment system. With Illuminate DnA, teachers and staff within LAUSD had access to multiple measures that would allow them to focus on areas to improve, reflect on positive shifts in student and educator outcomes, and understand holistically where supports were needed.
Santee leveraged “whole child” indicators available in the system to draw attention to areas beyond academic achievement, such as factors related to social-emotional learning (SEL) and school culture and climate. By using a more holistic approach, Santee aimed to reduce disparity and disproportionality.
The “Reported Race” report (see Figure 1) showed a major disparity in certain minority groups being hit with suspensions higher than the average population. In particular, the numbers skewed heavily towards African American and Hispanic when it came to instances of suspensions. A deeper look in the “Subgroup Achievement Gaps” report (see Figure 2) revealed that ELs and Special Ed students had the biggest gap in achievement, showing 16% and 19% below average respectively.
Figure 1: Reported Race Chart
Figure 2: Subgroup Achievement Gaps Report
Leaning on SEL indicators (non-cognitive factors) such as chronic absenteeism, suspensions, and out of classroom instructional minutes (referrals, not suspensions), site leaders were equipped with the proper data to inform their decisions around equity and student growth.
“A common response to patterns of inequity is to point to factors that affect students’ lives like poverty, family circumstances, and historic discrimination,” said Dr. Martin Gomez, Principal at Santee. “While very real, we can’t change these things by ourselves. But what we can change is how we support and accelerate students in succeeding in spite of the challenges they face.”
In partnership with Illuminate Education, Santee Education Complex saw positive results:
- 26% and 12% improvement in ELA & Math proficiency
- Decrease in chronic absenteeism by 215% for African-American & Latino students
- Decrease in suspensions by 200% for African American & Latino students
- 83% graduation rate (35% jump from 2012 to 2016)
“We’re thankful that Illuminate has been able to be a part of our success,” said Dr. Gomez. “Without the data Illuminate has given us, it would have been very difficult to make decisions that were data-driven and not from the gut. We’re able to use the information to guide us towards continuous improvement and growth.”
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