The typical image of California is one of coastal cities and urban centers. But this picture leaves out much of the state and many of its residents. For large numbers of policymakers, foundations, and education leaders, these parts of our large and diverse state are “invisible.” Over the past two decades, however, these communities have emerged as some of the fastest growing and neediest parts of our state.
Indeed, an increasingly significant percentage of California students live and attend school outside of large urban or suburban regions. While the student enrollment in urban school districts like Compton Unified has decreased over the past two decades, districts located in nearby desert and rural areas such as the Antelope Valley have seen steady increases in the number of students they serve. These rural districts have also been experiencing demographic change, including growing numbers of Hispanic/Latino(a) and African American students, as well as considerable increases in the number of English Learners (ELs), foster youth and students living in poverty.
Yet attention from policy makers and researchers to the challenges faced by isolated and rural districts is rare. Without a proactive research and communications agenda, key leaders will continue to overlook these regions, leaving their school communities without the support they need. We believe that there should be a greater focus of state and philanthropic efforts on high need populations outside of urban centers, including foster youth, low-income youth, African-American students and English learners.
The goal of this report is to highlight and describe the Antelope Valley, identify its available resources, and call attention to the needs of districts, students and their families. To that end, we focus specifically on the Antelope Valley Union High School District and its seven largest K-8 feeder districts, situated in northern Los Angeles County . The report also offers recommendations to support the development and implementation of systemic policy solutions to help better support students and the community.