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 Students from San Diego's Low-Income Families on More Equal Playing Field than Those in Other Major U.S. Cities, New Index Confirms

According to the Education Equality Index (EEI), a first-of-its-kind tool released today, the achievement gap between San Diego’s students from low-income families and their more advantaged peers is smaller than 75 percent of major U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas. San Diego’s achievement gap also narrowed by six percent between 2011 and 2013 — along with San Bernardino and Fremont, the fastest pace among California’s 22 largest cities. This indicates that efforts to increase education equality in the city are successfully putting low-income students on a more equal playing field.

“San Diego's success proves that it is possible to give all students the high-quality educational opportunities they deserve, regardless of their family's income," said Dr. Randolph E. Ward, San Diego County Superintendent of Schools. "We have a ways to go in closing achievement and opportunity gaps, but the progress we've made has a real impact on a large number of children.”

The Education Equality Index is the first national comparative measure of the achievement gap at the school, city and state levels, and identifies the regions where children from low-income communities are most likely to attend schools with small or nonexistent achievement gaps. Funded by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and developed in partnership by the foundation, Education Cities and GreatSchools​, the EEI features school, city and state-level data covering the nation’s 100 biggest cities in 35 states.

The Education Equality Index also identifies the top schools in each city with small or nonexistent achievement gaps that serve a student population where a majority are from low-income families. San Diego Early/Middle College High School is one of those schools in San Diego.

“We are delighted to be recognized as a school with a small achievement gap,” said San Diego Early/Middle College Principal Elizabeth Larkin. “As an early college high school, in the ninth and tenth grades our students prepare to take a combination of high school and college classes in the eleventh and twelfth grades. Their hard work (and the dedication of their teachers) pays off!”

Key findings from the Education Equality Index include:
  • California receives an EEI score of 36.7, which is smaller than 25 out of 35 states for which data is available.
  • With EEI scores of 42.7 and 41.3, respectively, San Diego and Chula Vista both have smaller achievement gaps than the state of California overall, indicating that more students from low-income families have access to schools that put them on an equal playing field with their more advantaged peers.
  • San Diego’s achievement gap narrowed by six percent between 2011 and 2013, the fastest pace among California’s 22 largest cities. The achievement gaps in Fremont and San Bernardino also narrowed by 6 percent during the same period.
  • In contrast, Chula Vista’s achievement gap grew slightly — by two percent — between 2011 and 2013. 
  • California has 22 cities among the 100 largest in the U.S. by census population. Irvine (EEI score of 55.3) and San Francisco (51.1) have the smallest achievement gaps in the state, and the 5th and 6th smallest achievement gaps in the nation, respectively.
  • Out of California’s 22 largest cities, the achievement gap only narrowed in nine cities between 2011 and 2013.

The top 10 San Diego schools with small or nonexistent achievement gaps that serve a student population where the majority are from low-income families are:
  • Alcott Elementary School
  • Angier Elementary School
  • Crown Point Junior Music Academy
  • Hawthorne Elementary School
  • Health Sciences High School
  • Kearny Digital Media & Design School
  • Kearny International Business School
  • King-Chavez Primary Academy
  • Ocean Beach Elementary School
  • San Diego Early/Middle College School

As detailed in the EEI, there are hundreds of schools across the nation where low-income students are achieving at levels that match or even exceed their more advantaged peers — proving that all children can excel in school when given the opportunity.

“Equality of opportunity is an American ideal,” said Ethan Gray, founder and CEO of Education Cities. “The Education Equality Index shows that while we, as a nation, have a long way to go to ensure our most vulnerable children have the opportunities they need to thrive, there are schools in almost every city proving that equality is possible.”

This is the first in a series of releases intended to identify the practices that are closing the achievement gap at the quickest pace. To see more data from the Education Equality Index and use the interactive online tool, visit