California Here I Fail

, Susan Martin, Leave a comment

SACRAMENTO, CA, February 15~The Pacific Research Institute (PRI), a free market think tank based in California, today announced the results of its 2007 California Education Report Card: Index of Leading Education Indicators. It is the fourth edition of a report that began in 1997.

Lance T. Izumi, PRI’s director of Education Studies, and co-authors Rachel Chaney and Xiaochin C. Yan, evaluate and grade 17 aspects of California’s education system, including its accountability system, standards tests, graduation rates, courses, and finance system. In a total of 17 categories, there were six “F”s, five “D”s, four “C”s, one “B”, and one “A”.

“This is not a report card that any student would want to bring home to his or her parents, and it’s not a report card that I am proud to deliver to the California taxpayer,” said Mr. Izumi.

The results include:

School Accountability System = F
The state’s Academic Performance Index (API) will take decades for many low-performing schools to raise their performance to proficient levels, and most low-performing schools are not subject to any accountability whatsoever.

California Standards Test = F
Only about four in 10 students in grades two through 11 scored at or above the proficient level in English language arts and math in 2006.

Finance System
= F
Inflation-adjusted funding per pupil has gone up dramatically over the last decade, but too many of these tax dollars are being wasted on state programs that have yet to show success. Further, the state continues to create new education programs, most of which do not have any accountability mechanisms to prove their worth.

Dropout and Graduation Rates = D-
About three in 10 California high school students who enter the ninth grade fail to graduate four years later, and more than four in 10 African-American and Hispanic students fail to graduate.

Course Difficulty
= D
Fewer students in California are taking difficult math and science courses compared to the national average and to states like Texas, and a large majority of students are not taking university preparatory courses.

English Language Learners
= D+
California has no methodologically sound way of comparing year-to-year student progress on California English Language Development Test (CELDT), the state’s main instrument for determining the English fluency of English Language Learners. Also, because of self-interested funding concerns, many school districts hesitate to reclassify EL students as being fluent in English even if they have scored at the proficient level on CELDT. Research on state’s high school exit exam shows that significant numbers of EL students are not reclassified for 10 years.

= A
California has one of the best sets of academic content standards in the nation. Unfortunately for the state and its students, the standards have been inconsistently implemented in the classroom.

“Californians need to spend less time debating how much should be spent on public education and should spend more time focusing the discussion on what works in raising student achievement,” said Mr. Izumi. “Finding effective answers to this question will lead to improvements in the quality of education services, the performance of students, and ultimately the future of the Golden State.”

Susan Martin works for the Pacific Research Institute.