Wednesday, January 05, 2005

California's Schools Continue To Struggle

The Core
The San Jose Mercury News is reporting some very bad news concerning California's K-12 education system:

"Academically, California ranks 47th out of 50 states on national tests given to fourth-grade students."
The Mercury News goes on to state:

  • That in terms of class size, California ranks 49th out of 50.
  • When such family conditions such as poverty and English Language deficiencies were factored into the results, California has the largest class sizes.
  • When it comes to math, California scored 46th.

The source of The Mercury News article makes for some interesting reading:

  • In expenditures per student, California ranks 35th.
  • In numbers of students served by each guidance counselor, California ranks last.
  • California students rank 50th out of 51, (including DC) in terms of students' access to instructional computers.
  • Students in California rank last in the number of school librarians that are available to them.

Is it possible that there is some correlation between the above numbers and California's ranking of 47th out of 50 in terms of test scores?

I am a classroom teacher in a "typical" California junior high school. My colleagues and I see the challenges that confront our profession every single day. For example, a very large number of our school's students are still in the process of developing their English Language skills. Many of our pupils come from socio-economically dis-advantaged homes. If fact, some of my own students have a parent that is in state prison.

For those of us who are serving students in the classroom, these are not statistics, they are children. And even more importantly, they are the children of our friends and neighbors.

The question is this: When education funding, pupil-to-teacher ratios, number of guidance counselors, and computer access are all far below the national average, how can the fact that test scores are also below average come as a surprise?

Increased funding alone is not the solution to this problem as many teachers can affirm. Clearly, California's educational system is in need of fundamental reform. But until California makes a dedicated effort to level the playing field, (when compared with other states) it is doubtful that California's test scores will rise above the "national average" anytime in the near future.

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