The schools in Newport Beach, in general, are doing just fine. I added the qualifier because I’m guessing that many Newport parents aren’t thrilled with some of the recent Common Core test results.

Over in Costa Mesa, it’s another story. Here’s a recap of the Common Core results I posted last month (

1) Of the 34 schools listed on the link provided in the DP story, at least half of the students in 17 schools failed to meet state standards in at least one subject.

2) Of the 34 schools, at least half of the students in 13 schools failed to meet state standards in both subjects.

3) The much ballyhooed attempt to right the ship at Adams Elementary to help attract parents who have defected has failed. Only 22% of the students there met state standards in English and only 33% met the standards in math.

4) Of the 17 schools that failed to meet state standards in at least one subject, all but two are in Costa Mesa. At Newport Harbor, only 39% of the kids met state standards in English and at Newport Heights El, 49% of the students met state standards in English.

5) At the four schools I’ve been prodding the district for years to fix – Rea, Whittier, Wilson and Pomona – only 21% met the standards for English and only 20% met them for math.

In yesterday’s OC Register, there was a story about how the Fullerton School District is changing the way their board members are elected, moving from an at-large process to a district process. Here, it would mean that the parents in a particular zone would vote only for the candidates running in that zone. They would not vote for candidates from other zones as they do now.

So why is Fullerton doing this? According to the Register, “The school district, which governs a region of 117,262 people, is one of many cities and school districts in Orange County and around the state that are moving away from an at-large election system following a string of lawsuits claiming it violates the state’s Voting Rights Act.”

Here’s the link to the Register story:

Is our district violating the Voting Rights Act? I plan to find out. In the meantime, let’s discuss this option not as a threat, but as an opportunity to improve academic performance.

I believe that most Newport parents are pleased with the caliber of their child’s education. As a result, they probably don’t want to see a lot of changes made. It’s perfectly understandable and if I had a kid in a Newport school, I’d probably have the same attitude.

But that attitude is harmful to the schools in Costa Mesa. Why? Because the same people get elected repeatedly, people who are unwilling or unable to do what it takes to fix Costa Mesa’s schools. One look at the composition of the board reveals this truth. Of the seven board members, four are elected from zones in Costa Mesa. That’s a majority, yet, year after year, they continue to ignore the injustice of the achievement gap in Costa Mesa’s schools. Why? Because many votes and lots of dollars come from Newport Beach and the parents there don’t want change, even if that change would have no effect on the quality of the education in their own schools. Academic performance in Newport and Costa Mesa is not a zero sum situation, but I believe that many parents have been led to believe otherwise.

Many of them believe, for example, that a lower Newport influence would result in the Costa Mesa contingent voting to share PTA and other private money that flows into Newport schools. I opposed this concept during my campaign last year but I can’t speak for anyone else.

The schools in Costa Mesa need more help than they are getting. I don’t know if moving from an at-large voting system will improve things, but I do know this: What the administration and the board are doing now isn’t working and it’s time to try something else.

Steve Smith