Lance T. Izumi - Contributor
[Courtesty of Pacific Research
Izumi is Director of Education Studies for the Pacific
Research Institute and
Senior Fellow in California Studies. He is a leading expert in
education policy and the author of several major PRI studies.
[go to Izumi index]
the Big Picture on California Education
It's the standards...
[Lance T. Izumi] 8/16/03
15, California's education officials are scheduled to release
student scores on the 2003 state standardized
While the results are an important indicator of student and
school performance, there are other criteria that shouldn't
be forgotten. A comprehensive overview of all key indicators
is contained in the California Education Report Card: Index
of Leading Education Indicators, Third Edition, recently
released by the Pacific Research Institute.
California students as a whole did not perform well. For instance,
on the California
Standards Test, which is the
main measure used to rank school performance, only about
a third of students scored at or above the proficient level
English/language arts and math. It is likely that student
scores on the 2003 test will increase somewhat, which is certainly
a good thing. However, not only will a significant majority
of students still be performing below a proficient level,
yardsticks of education performance continue to tell a discouraging
The PRI report
notes that on the 2002 National Assessment of Educational Progress
(NAEP) reading exam, only 21 percent
the state's fourth graders scored at or above a proficient
level. Because scores on the NAEP, often referred to as the
nation's report card, are issued on a statewide rather than
school-by-school basis, they are not part of the state's
performance measurement of schools. Still, the NAEP is a useful
of aggregate achievement of California's students.
59 percent of entering California State University freshmen
had to take remedial courses in English and/or math.
That six out of 10 incoming students needed remediation is
shocking given that the CSU is supposed to take the top one
third of high-school graduates. CSU chancellor Charles Reed
warns that "a whole generation of kids can't read."
with deficient knowledge are less likely to take difficult
courses and that's the case in California. In 2000,
year in which statistics are available, only 35 percent
of California high-school graduates had taken first-year chemistry,
a proportion that ranked California next to last among
states. Only 56 percent of high-school graduates had taken
geometry compared to the national average of 74 percent
and the Texas average of 95 percent.
poor performance is critical since, according to a federal
study, the intensity,
quality, and difficulty
of a high-school curriculum is the most important factor
in determining whether that student will earn a college degree.
This poor student performance has occurred despite increased
total K-12 funding per pupil from all sources (federal, state
and local) came to approximately
$9,200, a nearly 29-percent
inflation-adjusted increase over the amount spent 10 years
earlier. There are glimmers of hope, however.
have seriously implemented the state's tough academic content
in the classroom are experiencing improved
student performance. In combination with empirically proven
curricula and teaching methods, the standards are one of
the keys to a better educational future for California's children.
As one high-school principal observes, the standards "have
provided a blueprint for making major headway."
should realize the depth of its education problems, abandon
excuses, and focus money and effort on the standards.
If the state takes this action, the worst may be behind us.
2003 Pacific Research Institute