Ryan J. Smith, Executive Director of The Education Trust-West, issued the following statement in response to the release of California’s statewide Smarter Balanced assessment scores:
“California’s current direction in education is not moving us forward”
says Ryan J. Smith, Executive Director of The Education Trust–West
“Today, California’s Department of Education released new state test results, providing a snapshot of how schools and districts are doing. This marked the third year of the Smarter Balanced assessments and the seventh year since the state adopted the Common Core standards. Across the board, improvement has slowed – in some places to a trickle. Fewer than half of all students met standards in English language arts – and in fifth grade English language arts, scores even declined. Math scores show minimal improvement over last year, but progress has slowed and achievement gaps across ethnic groups persist. Three-fourths of Latino students are not meeting standards in math, and more than two-thirds of African American students are not meeting standards in ELA or math. Even more troublingly, gaps for English learners appear to be widening in both math and English language arts.
California’s current direction in education is not moving us forward. We have made little progress in raising student achievement, and we have coupled this with a murky accountability plan with few assurances for safeguarding students of color and low-income students and a dashboard that takes a degree in analytics to decipher. For a state that often claims the mantle of innovation, we are currently far from it in education.
California started down the right path when it adopted the Common Core standards and moved to the Local Control Funding Formula – these were the right policy decisions. The Smarter Balanced assessments are more rigorous because they measure the types of high-level skills students need to be ready for college or a rewarding career. But in passing these policies, our state made a promise to students and families that we have not yet realized. We set high standards and offered local communities more freedom and flexibility. Unfortunately, we’ve made the wrong turn by not providing the deep, ongoing supports that are needed to shift practices at the ground level.
Indeed, there are some schools where educators are swiftly improving outcomes for historically underserved students. Nine out of ten students are Latino and/or low income at Eisenhower Elementary School in Garden Grove Unified, and the school has nearly doubled the percentage of these students who are meeting standards in math and ELA since 2014. At Vang Pao Elementary in Fresno Unified, where nearly all students are from low-income families, progress in both math and ELA continues to significantly outpace the state average. Too often we hear from our state leaders about the barriers that prohibit closing gaps. These schools dispel those myths and instead tell us that the barriers to closing gaps are more about choices than circumstances.
We should respond to these results with a sense of urgency. California also needs to recommit to equity not only in policy but in practice. Ed Trust–West stands ready to work with state and local leaders to do everything necessary to close these gaps once and for all.”
Ryan J. Smith
Prior to joining The Education Trust—West, Ryan was the Director of Education Programs and Policy for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles where he was responsible for the education program and policy efforts for the organization. He also coordinated Communities for Los Angeles Student Success (CLASS), a Los Angeles-based coalition of civil rights, education and community advocacy groups dedicated to closing the opportunity and achievement gaps for students-of-color and students living in poverty.
Prior to his role at the United Way, Ryan worked for former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. In his role as Senior Director of Family and Community Engagement, Ryan led a team that improved parent involvement over 40% and built systems within schools to help support authentic family, school and community partnerships. Ryan founded the Parent College which so far has educated over 5,000 parents across Los Angeles on the “parent three r’s” – their rights, roles and responsibilities.
Prior to joining the Partnership, Ryan was the Director of the Los Angeles Parents Union and managed Public Affairs for Green Dot Public Schools. He has also worked as a youth organizer for Youth United for Community Action’s (YUCA) educational equity campaigns and worked as a volunteer teacher in Mexico City and Cuernavaca, Mexico.
Ryan currently serves as a Annie E. Casey Foundation Children and Family Fellow. He graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from UCLA. He is currently a doctoral candidate in Education at UCLA. Ryan has authored more than a dozen editorials and opinion pieces published in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee, EdSource, and other publications. He was named by Education Week as one of the “Ten Education Leaders to Watch” nationally and also received the Families in Schools’ “Parent Engagement Leader of the Year Award”.
“I grew up with a single mother who dedicated everything to ensure that I had access to a quality education. Because of her passion, at the age of fifteen I started community organizing in South LA for educational improvement efforts. I continue to commit to getting results for impoverished communities and communities-of-color by leveraging the intersection between research, advocacy, policy and community engagement.”
Latest posts by Ryan J. Smith (see all)
- “California’s Current Direction in Education is Not Moving us Forward” says Ryan J. Smith - September 28, 2017
- Op-Ed: Una Carta Abierta al Gobernador Brown en el Cierre de la Brecha en Rendimiento - April 28, 2016
- Op-Ed: An Open Letter to Governor Brown on Closing the Achievement Gap - April 28, 2016