An interesting point came up during the school board meeting on Tuesday night: While test scores from last year show that San Diego Unified has lagged in high school, most of the federal stimulus money is being focused squarely on elementary school, providing tiny classes to the youngest kids.

“Why are you spending your money in K-2 when you just heard data saying that your high school kids are worse off?” asked David Page, the leader of a parent committee that oversees federal funds for disadvantaged kids. Board member Katherine Nakamura agreed.

While the test scores are from the 2007-2008 school year, they are the most recently available data from the state on how schools are performing. Superintendent Terry Grier, who is known nationwide as a reformer of high schools, seemed especially worried by the data. The numbers show that a disproportionate number of high schools are falling into the lowest rankings on test scores. Forty-nine percent rank in the bottom third among schools statewide.

But making classes smaller in high schools wouldn’t solve the staffing problem that San Diego Unified is now faced with: Extra elementary school teachers with nowhere to go. Using the stimulus money to provide small classes in elementary schools is expected to create dozens of jobs for those teachers. And it’s important to note that class size increases and other cuts have already hit elementary schools harder than middle and high schools in San Diego Unified.


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