As well-run and reform-minded as claimed? Elk Grove Unified Schools receive poor reform ratings from independent study

If you were to listen to any of the high-paid administrators or Trustees from the Elk Grove Unified School District, you would think the district is a well-run dynamic organization that ranks among the best in the State of California. But, as many district critics have repeatedly argued, that is not the case.

A recent analysis of California school districts with more than 2,500 students validates the criticisms. 

The District Readiness Index study conducted by Pivot Learning found that in three overall scores, the Elk Grove District was middling in terms of education reforms needed to improve student performance. The three scores determine if a district has few, partial, or strong foundations. 

Elk Grove was found to have two categories in solid foundations for school reform - personnel policies and workplace conditions. However, in the other four categories, community and family engagement, finance, and leadership, the EGUSD scored poorly.

Within community and family engagement, which scored EGUSD as having partial foundations (see below), there are six subcategories. Of significance, the district was rated as having few foundations for "family and community involvement in decision-making."

Additionally, within that category, the district scored poorly in "readiness to develop relationships with families" and "opportunities for two-way communications with families."

More damning was the district's overall leadership and governance score, ranking it as having few foundations. The three categories were an attempted or successful recall of board members, adoption of a superintendent performance review process, and adoption of an equity policy.

Over the last several years, the EGUSD has been regularly criticized by advocates for African-American students who have claimed they have been unfairly and disproportionately targeted for disciplinary actions. This fall, parents of special needs students criticized the district's abrupt discontinuation of programs. 

For several years, the reputed quality of Elk Grove Schools was a calling card for real estate developers. The combination of a reputation for quality schools and affordability, especially compared to the Bay Area, led to Elk Grove's rapid growth following the city's 2000 incorporation.

In recent years, however, EGUSD's shiny reputation has dimmed. Between labor strife and discontent among many parents over the treatment of certain students and on-campus assaults, the pastoral picture of Elk Grove schools has been blighted. 

In a separate report by, columnist Dan Walters noted that a communities economic status is not necessarily an indicator of its ability to embrace reforms meant to improve student achievement. Walters stated, "Most interestingly, the [top-rated] blue list includes a number of districts with large numbers of poor students, such as Brawley and Calexico in poverty-stricken Imperial County." 

The current Elk Grove Mayor, Bobbie Singh-Allen, and her predecessor, former Mayor Steve Ly, were members of the EGUSD Board of Trustees before they were elected to Elk Grove City Council. This month the newest member of the Board of Trustees, Michael Vargas, will take his oath of office.  

The entire study can be viewed here. On the map, a blue designation is strong, yellow is partial, and orange is few foundations.  


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1 comment

Atticus Finch said...

Hmmm. It is not a stretch to believe that BSA's and SL's political prowess were honed at EGUSD and then brought to bear at City Hall. And look where that got us (with SL) and still is getting us (with BSA). EGN is correct when saying that developers/employers/ businesses love to tout Elk Grove's "award winning school district" to attract new residents. That along with what was once relatively affordable housing for middle income earners, helped fuel Elk Grove's strong growth to the point where housing is no longer affordable for many locals. The Bay Area transplants took their equity to EG along with it's traffic, congestion, and other maladies associated with non smart, ill planned growth.

As for this independent study critical of the school district, I am sure it will be given a cursory review by administrators and then tossed aside. However, the rhetoric parents and teachers and other stakeholders hear will be that they take the feedback seriously and may look into creating an ad hoc committee to address the concerns brought up in the report. But as a parent of a student in the school district, I will say the district does make an effort towards community engagement and outreach. They even have an office and staff dedicated for this purpose.

The only time parents show up to the board meetings is when they have a complaint to lodge. And not before. And perhaps that is part of the problem. Parents and all stakeholders should be integral in the decision making process to help mitigate problems before they arise. At a minimum, this allows for diversity of viewpoints and for the community to feel included in the policymaking process. But this will require less apathy and more active involvement from parents. It's time for parents to put some skin in the game as they say.

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