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Statement: “These results show that San Diego Unified now ranks first among large urban school districts in California in literacy, and is closing in on the top ranking in science and math,” San Diego Unified Superintendent Bill Kowba wrote in a guest commentary in the Union-Tribune on Aug. 22, referring to recently released state test scores.

Determination: Mostly True

Analysis: On average, San Diego Unified performed better on the most recent state test scores than other urban school districts in California.

The first part about literacy scores is slightly off. San Diego fell just shy of San Francisco Unified for the highest English scores. To be exact, 56.3 percent of students met state standards in San Francisco and 56.1 percent in San Diego. Kowba rounded the test scores so both San Diego and San Francisco stood at the top with 56 percent. We’ve made the same error before and reported that both districts tied. We’ve corrected our articles to more accurately reflect the slight difference.

The second part about math and science scores is accurate. San Diego ranks just below two urban school districts throughout the state, San Francisco and Garden Grove Unified in Orange County.

Just to be clear, California has no standard definition that separates urban and nonurban districts. By urban, school officials typically mean a big district with high poverty. These schools face similar challenges and can be more fairly compared to one another than with suburban schools, which tend to have lower poverty.

Kowba’s statement compared eight urban districts that San Diego Unified uses to judge its progress: Los Angeles, Long Beach, Fresno, Garden Grove, San Francisco, San Bernardino, Sacramento and Oakland.

To make sure that San Diego Unified wasn’t leaving out an urban school district that would invalidate its claim, we ran an Ed-Data search of the largest school districts in California with more than 50 percent poverty and compared their scores. Here are test scores for school districts we compared:

A few school districts that fell outside our criteria tie or beat out San Diego in English or math, but Kowba’s comparison was a reasonable interpretation of what “urban” generally means.

Because San Diego Unified fell just shy of first place in English, but Kowba’s statement hits the mark overall, we’ve called his statement mostly true.

Did Kowba leave out any large urban school districts that should have made the cut? Please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/emilyschoolsyou.

Emily Alpert

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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