Statement: “There are high schools with as low as 5 percent of the students proficient in math,” San Diego Unified school board member John Lee Evans said Sept. 27 at a board meeting.

Determination: True

Analysis: Students at San Diego Unified schools have been scoring better and better on state tests in recent years. Scores have steadily risen across most grades, ranking the district above California’s other major urban districts.

It’s a positive trend, but school officials say there’s still plenty of room for improvement. While discussing test scores at a recent school board meeting, Evans highlighted one such area.

“At the same time that we have those high (district-wide) figures,” he said, “I’ve heard in the last day or two that there are high schools with as low as 5 percent of the students proficient in math.”

Evans asked district staff at the meeting whether that number was accurate. Ron Rode, who oversees an office that monitors test scores, stepped up to microphone.

“We do have some in the single digits and this has been a long-standing issue where we see higher performance at the elementary schools and then it drops as grade level increases, precipitously at high school unfortunately,” Rode said.

We checked the numbers, too, and they back up Evans’ description.

Arroyo Paseo Charter High School in City Heights finished dead last with 1.8 percent of students demonstrating proficiency in math — able to complete basic geometric and algebraic tasks like calculating surface area and solving linear equations. The highest scoring school, Scripps Ranch High, had 57 percent of students meeting state standards.

Overall, about one in four San Diego Unified high schools came close to Evans’ mark, with the percent of students meeting state standards falling in single digits. Here’s the score for each school:

Though scores were dismal in some cases, they used to be much worse overall. The percentage of high school students meeting state standards in math nearly doubled in the last five years. Less than one out of every three students met or exceeded state standards in math last year.

At the school board meeting, Rode also pointed to a statewide trend that extends to San Diego. As students get older, they tend to score worse and worse on state test scores. And those low marks from high schools bring down the district’s overall average.

The reasons for the precipitous decline aren’t clear, but researchers suggest that school instruction gradually grows further apart from the concepts examined in state tests. By high school, the gap is wide enough that few students meet state standards.

Test results show a social difference as well, Rode said in an interview. At younger ages, students seem more eager to do well on tests. As they grow older, students become wiser of the lack of accountability tied to state tests, which don’t affect grades, and then don’t take testing as seriously. High school juniors may also focus on preparing for college placement exams rather than state tests, Rode said.

Because some high schools in San Diego Unified came close to Evans’ description of math scores last year, we’ve rated his statement True. If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please share your thoughts in the comments section below. Be sure to explain your reasoning.

If you’re hungry for more education coverage, we’ve examined several other claims by San Diego Unified officials recently. Superintendent Bill Kowba accurately described improved student attendance but also overstated the scope of improved test scores. District officials mistakenly reported that they could reopen negotiations for a key deal with organized labor.

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He writes about public safety and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

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