CA students struggle on nationwide exams

standardized-testCalifornia fared poorly in the latest round of a bellwether series of key elementary and middle-school tests. “What’s sometimes called the Nation’s Report Card, a sampling of fourth- and eighth-graders in reading and math, painted a dismal picture of a state that insists it is prioritizing K-12 education, on which it is spending $53 billion this fiscal year,” the San Jose Mercury News noted.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, as the tests are formally known, ranked fourth graders in only five states, plus Washington, D.C., at as low a level of math proficiency as California’s.

The latest round of nationwide fourth and eighth grade math and reading tests yielded disappointing results. Stacked up against other states, California hovered at the lower end of the scale. “Across California, scores stagnated since 2013 at all levels — there were some small dips, which were not statistically significant,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

Laying blame

Although national and state officials alike cautioned that the trouble was hard to pinpoint, project, or trace back to root causes, some pointed the finger at the changes in testing brought on by this year’s shift toward compliance with the new Common Core Standards. “The NAEP tests aren’t completely aligned with the Common Core State Standards,” however, as state Department of Education spokesman Bill Ainsworth informed the Mercury News via email. “Consequently, we do not believe they are a good measure of California students’ progress.”

But the test results did also reveal significant racial and ethnic divergences. This year, added the Times, “between a quarter and a third of the state’s students performed at or above proficiency on the various tests; in fourth-grade reading, 4 out of 10 students were deemed to be below basic. And, fewer than 1 in 5 students of color or low-income students met or exceeded proficiency on any test.” What’s more, the paper noted, over the past three years, “California’s Latino students’ scores decreased slightly, but were flat in fourth-grade reading.”

For analysts focused on comparative racial test performance, the results turned back the clock. According to Education Week, “performance gaps between black, Hispanic and white students, in reading remained as wide in 2015 as they were in 1998. In math,” however, “the gap between black and white fourth-grade students has narrowed by about 10 points since 2000.”

Some analysts shied away from drawing too strong an inference even along lines of race. Brookings Institution senior fellow Tom Loveless told Education Week that “California’s demographics — including nearly 1.4 million students classified as English language learners — make it difficult to pinpoint the impact of the state’s school system versus other social and economic factors on results. In three of the state’s largest school districts — Fresno, Los Angeles and San Diego — achievement gaps between black, Hispanic, and white students have remained largely unchanged or even widened.”

Racial controversy

The intersection of race and education has recently occupied central, contested ground in California. In the wake of the Vergara case, which alleged civil rights violations against minority students as a consequence of protective teachers’ union policies, the political stakes have been raised in the debate over which disparities matter most and how they are to be corrected.

The controversy has magnified the significance of studies plowing similar ground. As Inside Higher Ed reported, a long-term analysis of SAT scores, released by the UC Berkeley Center for Studies in Higher Education, showed that “race and ethnicity have become stronger predictors of SAT scores than family income and parental education levels,” at least “among applicants to the University of California’s campuses.” The study’s author, Saul Geiser, concluded that admissions committees should offset the impact of the SAT by taking affirmative action criteria into account.


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  1. Dude
    Dude 8 November, 2015, 09:13

    “The controversy over the debate over which disparities matter most and how they are to be corrected…..”.

    Hey, I’ve got a novel idea on how to “correct” this. Send’em back to their own friggin countries and let those countries pay for their education.

    Reply this comment
  2. Leaving Soon
    Leaving Soon 8 November, 2015, 09:55

    Bad grades? Crappy test scores? No worries if you are non-white. Come on over to the UC’s! It will be interesting to see the reputation of academics of these schools over time.

    Reply this comment
  3. Dyspeptic
    Dyspeptic 8 November, 2015, 10:28

    “And, fewer than 1 in 5 students of color”

    Don’t you hate the way Leftards pollute the language with stupid, grammatically awkward PC phrases like “students of color”?

    “The study’s author, Saul Geiser, concluded that admissions committees should offset the impact of the SAT by taking affirmative action criteria into account.”

    Or, to put it more honestly – GET WHITEY! (and Asians too)

    Reply this comment
  4. Dawn Urbanek
    Dawn Urbanek 8 November, 2015, 11:32

    If you really want to understand why California students are not doing well then please visit and join me in suing the state of California in Federal Court to challenge the Constitutionality of the State’s new funding law. The State of California has used Public Education to raise new tax revenues and then use the money to fund other items. The States new funding law funds K-12 Public Education at 2007-08 levels by the year 2021. So essentially funding has been flat for 14 years while the State spends record high revenues on employees, high speed rail and the California Air Resources Board. If the State of California wants to change its spending priorities it takes a vote of the people. Please help correct the great injustice being done to California students.

    Reply this comment
  5. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 8 November, 2015, 11:49

    It is the fault of the CTA. With the rise of teachers unions, and protections unheard of in the private sector, bad teachers thrive, and students suffer. That is why I cannot wait until the SCOTUS strikes down mandatory teacher/CTA/public union dues in a few months, and trust me, it is coming down the pipeline. One of the FEW times I will agree 100% with Roberts Scalia et al.

    Reply this comment
  6. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 8 November, 2015, 14:54

    Public schools at maximum attain bell curve results. Perhaps, 10% of students may have abilities worthy of higher education in science, math, engineering, higher finance.

    The next 20% are the problem…..communication majors…..they chew up higher education dollars and provide society rarely anything other than consuming Walgreen wine-

    The next 20% become the contractors that never return your phone calls.

    The remaining 50% are socially promoted, some squeek by as 9 year wonders at Cal State Fullerton or Humboltd graduating with a well earned attendance trophy; ah., and….the next prison population….then last but least….. career fast food, swapmeet grey market types, service workers in big box stores and the welfare state perpetuals.

    Reply this comment
  7. desmond
    desmond 8 November, 2015, 17:50

    What is remarkable is the percentage of parents who think this is ok. They think Buff will be a major league baseball player at five feet two inches, Antoine will be a NBA player, even though he is five feet six inches 295 lbs.or Jose will be a English Premier League soccer player
    who is so uncoordinated that he whiffs twice before he can actually kick it. Parents so stupid it is lucky the kids can wipe their ass.

    Reply this comment
  8. JimmyDeeOC
    JimmyDeeOC 8 November, 2015, 18:04

    Put this one in the reefer and yank it out in 10 years……..just change the dates and publish.

    The gap in test scores exist because there are gaps everywhere else, including the very raw material. And there is nothing anyone can do about it. End of discussion.

    And imagine my shock is seeing a Tribesman (Saul Geiser) concluding that “….. admissions committees should offset the impact of the SAT by taking affirmative action criteria into account.” Wow….that’s a novel approach. This guy gets paid to conduct studies on topics the conclusions of which everybody already knows. What a worthless way to spend a life.

    A pure example of that overused cliche about insanity (attributed, tho probably erroneously, to Einstein.)

    Reply this comment
    • Dyspetic
      Dyspetic 9 November, 2015, 10:21

      Like I already said, it’s all about GET WHITEY! Saul Geiser, like any good self hating, Leftard totalitarian, wants to rig the system in favor of the hyper-pigmented. Hey, it worked for Obama.

      Reply this comment
    • ECK
      ECK 10 November, 2015, 18:00

      Hate to tell you this, but race based criteria are illegal. Which “everone knows” except your types I guess.

      Reply this comment
  9. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 9 November, 2015, 05:26

    And its no wonder becuase the kids in this state are being tuaght how to hug trees or being told we stole this part of america from mexico(lie) or that backyard BBQ’s and SUV’s cuase Global Warming Anyone for Home or private schooling that the NEA and the Dept of Indoctrination(Educans)opposes

    Reply this comment

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