This story originally appeared in UCLA Today, a discontinued publication.

California schools get failing grade

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Failing grade Student achievement gaps along racial lines persist in California, where schools attended primarily by African American and Latino students are far more likely to lack fundamental learning conditions than schools serving white and Asian students.
 
These findings were released today, Feb. 23, in “The California Educational Opportunity Report: The Racial Opportunity Gap,” prepared by UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education and Access (IDEA) at the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies and the University of California All-Campus Consortium On Research for Diversity (UC/ACCORD).
 
The current report draws upon data from every high school in California as well as parent focus groups statewide.
 
California is facing “a massive educational deficit,” said John Rogers, director of IDEA and associate professor at the graduate school, speaking at a telephone press conference today. That has parents worried. “California parents are concerned about differences across schools throughout the state … and about the gap between California students and those from other states.”
 
California ranks near the bottom of all states in the number of students reaching their educational goals, Rogers noted – and not just among students of color. California students generally have lower test scores than students across the nation. Notably, white students in California also perform well below white students in almost all other states.
 
These findings are reflected in an in-depth look at California’s high school class of 2006. Only two-thirds of those students who started in that cohort in the ninth grade went on to graduate. Of these, students prepared for and going on to attend college were abysmally low – due at least in part to the fact that two-thirds of the state’s schools fail to offer enough classes to qualify students to even apply to college.
 
This deficit includes advanced placement and honors classes as well as the A-G coursework required for UC eligibility, Rogers said.
 
Few of the state’s 2006 high school graduates went on to higher education: Less than one-third went to community college, only one in nine went to a CSU campus and fewer than one in 12 went on to a UC campus. These figures do not match the high aspirations that students and parents across all ethnic groups have. Almost all 10th graders say they expect to graduate from high school and go on to receive a bachelor's degree.
 
IDEA chart 650
 
“Looking ahead to 2025,” Rogers said, “this data raise concerns about the ability of California to meet workface needs of future.”
 
Nationwide, most other states do a much better job of promoting high school graduation and college-going, said Rogers, who noted that California ranks 48th of all states in the college-going rate.
 
A great many California public schools lack the most fundamental tools for helping students reach their educational aspirations, particularly those schools serving students of color, Rogers said. The report found that a school’s location – its zip code -- had a high correlation with the quality of the school.
 
“Zip codes were a polite way for parents to talk about race and class in California public schools,” Rogers said. “One mother said that her local school was so bad she sent her daughter to live with a friend in a more affluent community. The mother picked her daughter up on Friday nights, and they stayed together on weekends. ‘I feel like a stepmother now,’ she said.”
 
Schools which serve a higher proportion of Latino and African American students suffer greater shortages of credentialed teachers than schools serving proportionally more white and Asian students, the report found. What’s more, Rogers added, credentialing is just one measure of a teacher’s qualifications. Often teachers are assigned to teach outside their subject matter – a situation that occurs more often in poorer schools and with unqualified teachers assigned to teach math classes.
 
In light of the recently approved California budget, parents are concerned – and rightly so -- about deep cuts to public and education spending, Rogers said. California is already spending $2,000 less per K-12 student – or 70 cents on the dollar – compared to other states.
 
The California Educational Opportunity Report lists information on schools by State Senate district as a tool for legislators, with whom Rogers and others from IDEA and UC/ACCORD will meet Feb. 24. “We have had legislators tell us that they didn’t know the particular facts about the schools in their district,” said Rogers, “but with these reports, they can now go back and have conversations about it with facts instead of opinion.
 
The report, said Rogers, has even been dubbed “the Bible of educational data” by State Senator Gloria Romero (D-East Los Angeles), who serves on the California Curriculum Commission, which advises the State Board of Education on the adoption of both state curriculum frameworks and instructional materials used by K-8 school districts.
 
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