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San Jose Mayor Reed Calls For Education Reforms After Study Shows Minority Groups Left Behind

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and school officials in San Jose called for reforms to the public school systems in Silicon Valley on Wednesday following release of a study showing Hispanic and African-American kids remain far behind in math and college preparation.

Reed joined three superintendents of school districts in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties and others at a news conference to discuss the report by the Mountain View-based foundation Innovate Public Schools.

Just 20 percent of Hispanic and 22 percent of African-American kids in the counties who graduated high school in four years were eligible for admission to either the University of California or California State University system.

Reed, who described the figures as "dismal," said that reducing the achievement gap has been the goal of San Jose/Silicon Valley 2020, a program the city of San Jose and the county education office started four years ago.

The study also found that only 23 percent of Hispanic and 24 percent of African-American seventh and eighth graders in the two counties tested proficient in state STAR testing for algebra as of 2012, compared to 57 percent of white students and 76 percent of Asian students.

"These are the kinds of numbers that we said we would not accept," Reed said. "When you see this report, obviously our work is not done."

"But this is not a depressing report," Reed said. "This is a report of hope. This is a report of optimism, because we know how to do this. This is not impossible."

Reed pointed to encouraging news in the report about 10 schools in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties where many Hispanic students have succeeded.

The top performing institutions for Hispanic students included charter schools such as Renaissance Middle School and Rocketship Mateo Sheedy Elementary School in San Jose and Aspire Phoenix High School in East Palo Alto.

Hispanic students at Rocketship Mateo Sheedy scored 921 in the state's Academic Performance Index, much higher than the California target score on the standardized test of 800.

At another charter, KIPP Heartwood in the Alum Rock School District in East San Jose, 81 percent of Hispanic students tested proficient in algebra.

"There are educators who have figured this out," Reed said. "There are schools that have figured this out."

Innovate Public Schools Executive Director Matt Hammer said that the schools that have improved student performance by focusing on enforcing standards.

"As you walk into these schools, they've got this very, clear, clear culture, this relentless culture of high expectations," Hammer said.

"And it's this commitment in this culture among all of the adults in the school that every child is going to make it if we can just figure out how to teach well enough," he said.

Reed said that school officials should "copy" the methods used at the 10 schools in the region where performances by Hispanic students had improved.

"What we have to do collaboratively as a community is to figure out how to get the secret that is being used in some of these schools into all the schools and how to put together the resources so all of these schools can come up to these levels," he said.

"That's how we're going to make it for all of our Latino kids, all our African-American kids, all of our white kids, all of our Asian kids to perform much, much better and have that chance to go to college," Reed said.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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