Losing Ground: Fewer Silicon Valley 11th Graders Ready to Go to College or Work

By John Melville

Despite greater attention to educational improvement in recent years, the latest state test results show that fewer Silicon Valley high school students are ready for college or the world of work.  After three consecutive years of improvement on the Smarter Balanced English Language Arts and Math exams, the share of students in 11th grade that met or exceeded state standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics declined in Silicon Valley in 2017-18.  This pattern mirrored the trend in California more broadly among 11th grade test takers – declines after years of improvement.

As the chart below shows, only 64% of Silicon Valley students met or exceeded standards in English Language Arts in 2017-18, down from 69% in 2016-17, and even lower than in 2014-15.  In addition, only 47% of students were proficient in math in 2017-18, down from 48% in 2016-17.  Put another way, fully 36% of Silicon Valley 11th graders do not meet state standards in English Language Arts, and 53% fall short in Mathematics.

11th grade English and Math 2018Moreover, the gap in student test scores by ethnicity in Silicon Valley remains stark, and more dramatic than the rest of California.  For example, there was a 60% gap between the share of Asian students (78%) and the share of Latino students (18%) that met or exceeded state standards in Math. At the state level, this gap was 55%.  In Silicon Valley, the share of 11th grade Latino students meeting or exceeding state standards in Math has continued to decline the past three years from 20% to 19% to 18%.  As a result, today fully 56% of all Silicon Valley 11th graders that are not meeting Math standards are Latino students, a total of more than 8,400 students.

Although we should be careful not to over-interpret a one-year decline in overall test scores, we also should not overlook the fact that the percentage of Silicon Valley students falling short of state standards remains high, and the gap between top-performing groups and lower-performing groups remains large.

Let us know what you think should be done to raise the level of student achievement.  And, be sure to stay tuned for additional educational achievement data in the 2019 SVCIP report.

John Melville is Co-CEO of Collaborative Economics.