Fewer than half of the students enrolled in public schools in San Antonio are reading on grade level and just over one-third are on grade level in math, according to an analysis of recent state standardized test results. 

The nonprofit City Education Partners previewed the citywide analysis, broken down by City Council district and by school, Wednesday during City Council’s public comment session.

The numbers are from the results of the most recent state STAAR standardized tests released in July, but the group hopes that visualizing the scores on a citywide map will spark collaborations and action to increase the scores, which showed 70% of council districts had students performing below the state average in reading and math. 

“A through F can be a little bit controversial and complicated sometimes,” Dalia Flores Contreras, the CEO of the nonprofit told the San Antonio Report, referring to the state’s accountability rating system for campuses and districts. “So we wanted to do something simple, the simplicity of how many students are reading on grade level.” 

While charter schools and districts are often analyzed separately from each other, Contreras said there is a chance to build bridges and connect programs that are working with those that are struggling. The analysis combines scores from both traditional school districts and public charter schools.

“Our goal is always to build bridges, to build partnerships,” Contreras said.  “We said let’s take a city of San Antonio approach, because a city is as great as their schools.” 

The results reflect the historical economic, investment and education disparities between San Antonio’s more affluent North Side and other parts of the city.

In District 5, only 29% of students read proficiently while only 18% exhibit math proficiency. Districts 8, 9 and 10 — all on the North Side — had the highest percentage of passing scores. But only 71% of District 9 students were reading proficiently, according to the analysis, and 60% were proficient in math. 

A graph shows reading and math proficiency by city council districts in San Antonio.
A graph shows reading and math proficiency by city council districts in San Antonio. Credit: Courtesy / City Education Partners

The full report was to be released Thursday.

Contreras said that issues that have historically impacted San Antonio’s lower-income residents, from lack of transportation to lack of economic development, are key to the conversation. 

“We cannot keep looking at education and saying, ‘OK, educators, you fix that, and we’re gonna fix this other thing,’” Contreras said. “This is so entrenched. One of the most powerful ways to deal with issues of equity in issues of systemic oppression, or systemic racism … is to have a cross-sector approach.” 

She hopes that city leaders and others in the public and private sector follow up on the data by visiting schools. 

Need for parent advocacy 

Joe Cantu, the co-executive director of MindShiftED, a nonprofit that helps train parents to advocate for their children, said the report highlights historic data in a way that is impossible to ignore. 

No matter where you are in the city, there is a chance your child could be getting an education that won’t teach them to read proficiently, Cantu said.

Cantu said the report shows the importance of parents advocating for their children, and being aware of what is happening in their schools. He also said it shows there are needs everywhere. 

“It would be different if there were, like, incredibly concentrated pockets of students failing in one part of the city,” he said. “But it’s everywhere.”

The issue is personal for Cantu, who graduated from a high school on the South Side in 2007. 

“What I noticed coming out of there was I wasn’t really prepared for college,” he said.

Now with children of his own, Cantu said he can’t let them go through a similar experience, and he wants to help other parents do the same.