Struggling Schools, Promising Solutions

Struggling Schools Promising Solutions Report

Struggling Schools, Promising Solutions

Silicon Valley’s Lowest-Performing Schools and What Can Be Done for Students Who Attend Them

Written by Jeimee Estrada
With Matt Hammer and Dr. Linda Murray

November 2014

More than 15,000 students in Silicon Valley are currently attending schools that have been persistently low-performing for years, according to the latest report by Innovate Public Schools. “Struggling Schools, Promising Solutions” calls on local communities, especially superintendents and school boards, to take swift action to find lasting solutions for the students attending the 28 schools singled out in the report. It summarizes research from across the country on how to effectively turn around struggling schools and highlights examples of successful schools and turnaround efforts that can inform and inspire efforts in Silicon Valley.

Key Report Findings

Students at the lowest-performing schools are falling so far behind that it will become increasingly difficult for them to catch up.

Only 26 percent of students at these schools read at grade level by the third grade. In 2012-13, only 40 percent were at or above grade level as they headed from eighth grade to high school, and by the 11th grade, when students consider their college or career options, only 31 percent of students in the two high schools and the one K-12 school identified in this report were reading at grade level.


This problem is disproportionately hurting Latino and low-income students.

Of the 15,985 students who attend these 28 lowest-performing schools, 78 percent are socioeconomically disadvantaged, 81 percent are Latino, and 50 percent are English learners (EL). Some would argue that these schools’ low academic performance is simply due to the high-need populations they serve, but many schools across California prove what is possible – posting proficiency rates of 70 percent and higher, with the majority of their students being high-need.


Schools that are beating the odds show us we should set the bar far higher for both schools and students.

This report identified 122 schools in California that are beating the odds for low-income students – serving a majority of high-need students and achieving high levels of performance. Of all the high-performing schools in the state, five schools in Silicon Valley are identified as high-performing and have sustained that performance for three out of most recent five years looked at in our report. An additional eight schools in this region also meet these criteria for one or both of the two most recent years for which data are available.

Years of research and examples from across the country show that dramatic improvement is possible, but execution is key.

Over the past 10 years, much has been learned about what it takes to effectively turn around schools. Several different approaches have been shown to be effective, with these elements being common in most successful turnarounds: a culture of high expectations for all students and adults; a highly capable leader and staff; significant instructional and operational authority; and using data to identify what works.

Silicon Valley’s Lowest-Performing Schools

Schools That Are Beating the Odds for Low-income Students