The stakes are far too high for us to ignore the educational inequities in San Antonio a minute longer. And while City Education Partners’ new report on math and reading scores in San Antonio public schools highlights proficiency numbers that are disappointing, they are not shocking.
In fact, we know that the deep racial and economic disparities in accessing good education are as old as the city itself. We also know that our city’s teachers, leaders and education champions have been working tirelessly to recover from the pandemic equitably. But even as we celebrate their tenacity and resolve, we know they have a mountain to climb to deliver on the promises we’ve made to children and families. It will take a collective effort to become the San Antonio we all dream of — a San Antonio with the best schools in the world.
This report demonstrates that fewer than 40% of the public school students in grades 3-8 in San Antonio are on grade level. Fewer than half of our students are on grade level in reading and just over one-third are doing math at their assigned grade level.
These data points are not meant to be a point of division, rather we hope they will serve as a wake-up call, a reminder of what the stakes are for our city’s future, how deeply entrenched educational inequity is in our city and how urgent it is that we correct these problems today.
In addition to shining a light on inequities, the pandemic also showed us how the changes we need should and could happen — quickly and by pooling all of our best talents and resources to solve the issues at hand. Of course, a single test or set of test scores doesn’t give us a complete picture of education in our city; however, it is an important bellwether for how we adjust our policies and actions moving forward.
The truth is that for generations of San Antonians, race, class and zip code have been the primary determinants of access to the best education, and our kids deserve more than an inequitable system mired in the ugliness of racism and classism. Every student should have access to the resources, materials, high-quality instruction and array of opportunities available to students in our city’s wealthiest districts — both inside and outside of their school walls. Families of the nearly 250,000 students across the city of San Antonio all deserve schools that see them, hear their voices, meet their needs and allow their children to flourish.
This report is an invitation to dig deeper, to look more closely at our schools — both the success and opportunities — in order to create a path forward. What we mean when we say that a single score is not enough to tell us everything is that there are schools doing good work, even as they are struggling to raise their proficiency rates. Similarly, there are schools whose proficiency rates are high that are struggling to deliver on the promise of equitable outcomes for all of their students.
We need to come together to understand what schools and educators are doing to drive success. Most importantly, we must ask what investments they need to thrive. The question driving all of our decision-making should be: how could our city transform if every school had access to the resources they needed to provide every child with the education they deserve?
As a graduate of the San Antonio public school system, I came to City Education Partners because I believe in what is possible in our city and I believe that if we all — the mayor’s office, City Council, educators, families and community leaders — bring our talents to bear on this problem, we will transform education in San Antonio.
We’re asking our city council members to dig into what this data means for their district, to meet with the school leaders and visit the schools in their district, talk to families, get proximate, and then take bold actions to help our schools expand what’s working. It is of no use to leverage this data to assign blame for where we are now. This should serve as a call for city leaders to step up and bring vigor, optimism and a commitment to systems change to their reading of this report and to the urgent, collaborative work of closing the equity gaps in San Antonio’s education system.
Every child has in them the capacity to thrive socially and academically. While our system is not yet fulfilling its promise to students, we know that they all deserve access to transformational education, regardless of their racial or economic backgrounds, and we won’t stop until every child in San Antonio has the opportunity to flourish.