City Life: If a school fell on the Westside, would the school board notice?

October 25, 2011|By Steve Smith

If I write a column that mentions Costa Mesa's City Council or the local employee union, I'm guaranteed an online response of at least eight fired-up readers.

Most of the comments are emotional — and less than factual — but that is expected when both sides recycle old data.

But if I write about a local subject that may be even more important than the battle at City Hall, I get one, perhaps two, responses, and not just this time, but every time ("City Life: School district needs leadership, accountability," Oct. 19).


The subject is our schools, specifically three Westside Costa Mesa schools that have been floundering for years with no accountability for the failure to register any improvement in their Academic Performance Index scores.

API rankings range from 1 to 10.

A 1 means the school's API score is in the lowest 10% of all schools in the state, according to the district's website. A 10 means the school's API score is in the highest 10% in the state.

For the past two years of index reporting, Pomona, Whittier and Wilson elementary schools have all scored a 2. These schools have been failing for years. In 2006, Pomona had an index score of 1, Wilson 2 and Whittier 4.

These scores are shameful, yet not only is no one at the school board taking responsibility, but the public also isn't speaking out.

So then why should anyone care? After all, aren't these kids the progeny of illegal immigrants who shouldn't even be here?

The short answer is no.

Though there are plenty of critics who want to make that case, data support the opposite conclusion. I could find no approximate numbers of Costa Mesa's illegal immigrant population, but using recent county figures, we can come close.

The 2010 U.S. Census estimated an Orange County population of just over 3 million people. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, the county's 2011 illegal immigrant population is 289,000, or about 9.5%.

So, give or take a half percentage point, we can conclude that about 90% of the kids in these schools are the sons and daughters of people who were born here or who entered the country legally.

Another myth to debunk is that the schools are overcrowded, which poses too great a burden to teachers. Sorry, try again.

According to recent data posted at, the average class sizes for Pomona, Wilson and Whittier are 20, 22 and 22, respectively.

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