Academic gains, student activism show schools have the power to create a #BetterSD

Posted: Wednesday, October 17th 2018


Superintendent Cindy Marten

In her 2018 State of the District speech, Superintendent Cindy Marten said the academic progress of San Diego Unified students and their work to improve the communities where they live are evidence that school reform is working. Marten said landmark reform legislation signed by Governor Brown on July 1, 2013, the same day Marten took office leading the state’s second-largest school district, has created an education revolution in the State of California. She expressed confidence education reform would eventually help reduce rising inequality in the county and called for an online campaign to highlight the ways schools are improving the city they serve.

This was Marten’s sixth State of the District speech, and she used the opportunity to highlight the recent run of good academic news for San Diego Unified students. Among the highlights she noted were: the highest graduation rate among big-city districts in the state; African American and Latino students’ progress toward achieving graduation rate parity; and, an increased percentage of students who are college-ready by graduation.

“The California Department of Education highlighted San Diego Unified as a bright spot and one of the districts ‘now reaping the benefits of initiatives to improve student performance,’” Marten said in her remarks. “The National Council of Great City Schools put it more simply. They said our students ‘blew the socks off’ national testing results.”

Beyond the academic progress students have made, Marten highlighted some of the concrete ways students are contributing to their hometown. She introduced a video documenting the student-run thrift store at Patrick Henry High, where students interested in recycling are selling used goods to benefit students in need. During her speech, Marten wore a necklace she had purchased at the thrift store. The superintendent also shared the story of students who have saved lives through their knowledge of hands-only CPR, a joint initiative of the school district, the county and the American Heart Association.

“The necklace I am wearing from the Patrick Henry Thrift Store has an M on it for Marten,” said the Superintendent before adding, “That M could just as easily stand for march, because we are raising a generation of students who have accepted their responsibility to shape their world. They are not waiting. They are on the march.”

Marten said both the academic progress and the impact students are having on the broader community are the result of strategic investments in equity under the 2013 Local Control Funding Formula, statewide school reform legislation to target funding toward high-needs districts like San Diego. Marten said San Diego Unified has doubled down on equity funding by increasing the share of state funding for individual schools within the system that have higher needs than others.

“The education revolution in California is moving us closer to a world where your zip code does not determine your destiny,” Marten said. She called education the engine that drives social mobility in our county and called for added progress to eliminate inequality.

Throughout her speech, Marten highlighted the ability of individual stories to inspire whole communities to action. She said the district plans to follow the example set by students and create an online campaign to inspire progress toward a better community. She encouraged everyone involved with the schools to prepare to share their own stories on how education is making San Diego stronger.

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