The true measure of a school’s success, in any endeavor, is found in the circumstances under which it must operate. Francis Polytechnic High School, located near the Golden State Freeway in the east San Fernando Valley, is a case in point.
Its enrollment comes from Arleta, Sun Valley, Pacoima, North Hollywood and the city of San Fernando. Nearly 80% of the student body is Latino, and most come from low-income households. Francis Poly has a sizable bilingual program and many students arrive with only limited English speaking skills. In fact, according to school officials, over the past decade, more and more of those students are recent immigrants with deficient educational backgrounds.
When such a school successfully encourages more of its students to take college entrance exams, it would be logical to assume that there would be a decline in the school’s overall score on the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Merely holding its ground, under those circumstances, would be regarded as a victory. That is particularly the case when one considers the fact that the combined scores among Valley schools for the math and verbal sections of the SAT fell by two points overall.
As if that wasn’t enough, you can add the fact that the Los Angeles Unified School District’s bilingual programs are something of a failure, taught by teachers and administrators who are supposedly suffering from disgruntlement and low morale.
But this is a good-news story, and Francis Poly is beating the odds. Its average score on the verbal section of the SAT went up by four points this year, from 324 to 328. More impressive was its showing on the math section, where scores have increased by 22 points, to 431, since 1991.
The reasons for this success are many and varied. For example, students are strongly encouraged to pursue further education in a two-year college program at the very least. Early efforts, in the 10th grade, on such exams as the PSAT, help eliminate SAT jitters. Teachers have widely partaken of classes and workshops at UCLA on how to teach writing, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
And there are after-school and Saturday test-preparation meetings for students, a computer-based college and career guidance program, increased offerings in higher math, even “college awareness” meetings in the evenings for parents and students.
That sounds, to us, like a recipe for success that other schools would do well to follow.