There are lies, damn lies, and statistics. But I have found that if you use numbers on basic measures, take them over a long enough period of time, and graph them out, they usually do a very good job of showing clear trends.
So I did this for some numbers on BVSD (thank you to the nice people there who answered my info request) taking a base measure of the student body and how it is doing. And from looking at this it looks like, over time, that BVSD is stuck. We can argue about exactly how "good" a job BVSD is doing. But what does seem very clear is it is not improving.
Ok, so lets look at the numbers (spreadsheet here). You can click on the graph to get a larger copy. First a couple of caveats. I think the dropout rate is way low - it may just be for people who drop out their senior year (I have a question in on that).
Second, how things are measured can change from year to year. It can also be impacted by when in the year it is measured, what is included, etc. But as a gross measure, these numbers tend to be measuring the same thing year over year.
So what do we see? Looking at the lines at the bottom, the student body's composition has stayed constant. We have seen no increase or decrease in ELL, Special Needs, or the economic status of the students. The only measure outside of the margin of error is the free lunch and that slight bump is more an indicator of the economy Bush has bequeathed us.
Now up to the CSAP score. This number is an average of all grades across all schools of students proficient and above. In other words, the 70% of our students that are passing. Again, no real change and most of the tiny increase the last 3 years is due to adding the 3rd and 4th grade math test where students have a higher average.
Bottom line - BVSD is doing as competent a job today as they were doing in 1998 (and probably before). So all the programs and initiatives and other efforts tried by the system - bukus, nada, a big fat zero. If they had done nothing new we probably would be at this exact same point. If the BVSD administration is having no effect, then by definition they are failing. Not doing poorly, they are failing.
We are also failing 30% of our students. Lets repeat that, for 3 out of 10 students we are not giving them a proficient education. And in today's economy where a college education is a prerequisite for most well paying jobs, for 30% we're not even getting them to the level of a strong high school education. That 30% is financially fucked in today's economy. Not slightly disadvantaged, they're hosed.
And our teaching staff? Like any large group it follows the Bell curve where some are fantastic, many are good, and some are awful. So what does the district due to remove the really bad teachers? Nothing. In the last 17 years not a single tenured teacher has been fired (source Veronica Benavidez plus recent info request). Not one. How on earth can BVSD deliver a quality education for all if no matter how horrible a teacher is, they keep their job?
So there you have it, a school administration and school board that are totally ineffective, a teaching staff that cannot be touched, and a system that discards 30% of our children. And with something this awful people are getting upset with the school board - OVER SELLING A SCHOOL BUILDING.
Chances of actual improvement on the issues that matter? About zero under the present system.
Update: vkberlin has commented about the increase in free lunch and tried to tie that to illegal immigration. First off, ELL is basically flat and has dropped since 2002/2003. If the recent increase in poor was due to illegal immigration, then ELL would also be increasing.
The increase in poor (free lunch) students appears to mirror the economy, as the Bush economy tanks, the poor increases slightly. As to the increase from 8.6% to 13.9%, that is an increase of 5.3% of the student body. I put this increase down not to any change in the student body, but to the change in the existing student's family's economic status.