Profile of the Santa Monica-Malibu School District

by Brian M. Stecher


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This briefing, prepared in response to a request from a Santa Monica citizens’ group, uses publicly available data to describe important features of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SM-MUSD) in comparison to three sets of districts: (1) five districts similar to SM-MUSD in total enrollment and student demographics, (2) four districts with the highest student test scores in the state, and (3) the average from Los Angeles County as a whole. It finds that SM-MUSD has similar resources and uses them similarly to the districts identified as most comparable, and that SM-MUSD students are doing well in comparison to students in these districts, although they lag behind students in the highest-achieving districts in the state. The analysis found no serious shortcomings or deficiencies. The greatest limitation of this profile is the lack of data on the district’s instructional program and an emphasis on quantity rather than quality. Although the state does not collect data to fill these gaps, such information could be gathered by motivated districts or communities.

This research in the public interest was supported by RAND, using discretionary funds made possible by the generosity of RAND’s donors and the fees earned on client-funded research.

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