Montgomery, Ala. has a population of about 200,000, roughly equivalent to Newport Beach and Costa Mesa. The average household income is around $49,551, which is about three-quarters of the average household income of Costa Mesa.

Montgomery has one.

Mobile Alabama also has about 200,000 people. The median household income there is just over $36,000. In Mobile, 26% of the adult population has a bachelor’s degree or higher. Newport’s BA or higher percentage is 64% and Costa Mesa’s is 36%.

Mobile has one, too.

And just up the road in Los Angeles, East Los Angeles zip code 90022 to be exact, the average adjusted gross income is $29,000, compared with $72,000 statewide. In 90022, the “Hispanic or Latino” population is 65,000. The next highest racial category is “White” at 1,165. In 90022, 5.4% of the adult population has a BA or higher.

90022 also has one.

When they are compared to Newport-Mesa in many key categories, these three communities seem to be losers in all of them. Yet, the one thing they have in common is that they all have at least one school that was recently named a 2015 National Blue Ribbon School.

Fresno has a 2015 Blue Ribbon School. So does Stockton. The N-MUSD does not have one.

So with all of the hype and hoopla over the signature academies, the special Common Core curriculum and the investment in creating students prepared for the 21st “C”entury economy (The capital “c” is the district’s, not mine), our district failed to win one of these coveted designations.

What’s worse is that at the once proud and special Victoria Elementary School, a Blue Ribbon winner several years ago, 70 percent of the students failed to meet the state’s Common Core standards for math and 60 percent failed to meet them for English.

You can review all of the district’s Common Core scores here: http://schools.latimes.com/test-scores-2015/?q=newport-mesa+unified

The superintendent and the board president want you to believe that the reason the Common Core scores were dragged down was because the district has a large proportion of “ELA” students, that is, those for whom English is not their primary language. In an attempt to spin the ELA Common Core results, the Super wrote, “At every grade level, the percentage of elementary students who met or exceeded standards in ELA and math surpassed those percentages at the county and state level. When factoring in the percentage of students who are socioeconomically disadvantaged, English language learners, and foster youth in our schools, we are also the most diverse and highest performing school district in Orange County.”

Surpassing “those percentages at the county and state level” is not something of which the district should be proud because those percentages are awful. But that’s the lower bar that has been set at the N-MUSD. When the bar is that low, everything is a success.

As for “factoring in the blah, blah, blah,” sorry, that doesn’t work here. Those kids have been part of the Costa Mesa landscape for decades, so don’t trot them out when there is a need for a convenient excuse for failure.

Here’s what needs to happen: A bunch of the high-salaried experts in the district need to take a short field trip to the KIPP Raices Academy in East Los Angeles, which is part of the LAUSD. They should go there to find out how it became so successful despite what would seem to be large hurdles to overcome.

Here’s the address:

KIPP Raices Academy
668 South Atlantic Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA, 90022-3212
(323) 780-3900
Mrs. Chelsea Zegarski, Principal

And here’s a link to the school’s website: http://nationalblueribbonschools.ed.gov/awardwinners/winning/15ca470pu_kipp_ra_ces_academy.html

KIPP is a charter school, but still part of the LAUSD. The fact that it is a charter school should not be a reason to fail to make this trip – a good education structure is universal.

Are our local schools in decline? Look at the facts and make your own decision.

Steve Smith

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