By Dawn Collier
The first substantive set of K-12 student assessment scores to be published since the COVID school closures were released this week and the results for California are catastrophic.
California’s Smarter Balanced Assessment test scores — designed to assess if California students are meeting grade-level standards set by the state Department of Education — should shock the conscience of every Californian. The 2022 test results show:
Two out of three California students did not meet state math standards.
More than half of students did not meet state English standards.
84 percent of Black students and 79 percent of Latino and low-income students did not meet state math standards.
83.5 percent of economically disadvantaged eleventh grade students did not meet state math standards and 55 percent did not meet English standards.
Stop and read that again.
Eight out of 10 Black, Latino and low-income students can’t meet basic math standards after Gov. Gavin Newsom gave in to the California Teachers Association (CTA) demands that K-12 public schools stay shuttered for far longer than other states during the pandemic.
California’s performance on a second set of tests released this week, “The National Report Card” published by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), was equally devastating:
Only about 30 percent of California eighth-graders achieved proficiency in reading and about 23 percent achieved proficiency in math.
Just 7 percent of Black students and 11 percent of Hispanic students in California scored at or above NAEP’s ‘proficient’ level for eighth grade math.
Now stop and read that again.
It doesn’t matter which political party you belong to — California’s leadership or citizens should not tolerate these numbers. We should be engaging on an immediate and united, nonpartisan effort to ensure that California’s public school students can read, write and do arithmetic at grade level.
But that won’t happen because California is a one-party state and that party is wholly owned by the teachers’ unions that protect poor-performing teachers and failing schools instead of protecting kids. That’s why you will not see most legislators commenting on these scores.
The excuses for the test scores from those in charge were almost as outrageous as the test scores.
Gov. Gavin Newsom ignored the California test and focused instead on the national NAEP results because he hoped to hide California’s failure among the failing public schools in other states. Instead of acknowledging that California’s kids are in dire straits, Newsom had the audacity to enthusiastically tout his spending and education programs in an oddly enthusiastic press release.
CTA president Toby Boyd also chose to respond to the NAEP results instead of California’s tests, and blamed “racial, economic and other inequities that have long existed in our public education system” that were “exacerbated” by the pandemic for low student scores.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond acknowledged that parents were rightly concerned about the scores, but claimed California did what it had to do to save lives. But Thurmond can’t cast this week’s scores as an anomaly when student achievement scores have been shockingly low for Black and Hispanic students for years.
According to CPC analysis:
Reading: A 2015 report of fourth grade reading proficiency in California showed that only 16 percent of Hispanic students and 14 percent of Black students scored “at or above proficient.” These numbers nominally increased by 2019, in which 22 percent of Hispanic students and 18 percent of Black students scored at or above the proficient level in reading during fourth grade.
Math: A 2015 report of eighth grade mathematics proficiency showed that only 13 percent of Hispanic students and 14 percent of Black students scored “at or above proficient.” By 2019, proficiency rates marginally increased to only 15 percent for Hispanic students, and decreased by four percentage points (to 10 percent) for Black students.
Sadly, the state’s “solutions” are utterly meaningless. Newsom’s plan to dump more money into school lunches and universal Transitional Kindergarten is not going to raise reading and math scores for 4th, 8th and 11th graders.
Thurmond’s endorsement of the CTA’s push to launch “community schools” in low-income neighborhoods to dole out social service benefits and health care seeks to control families’ lives, but there’s no plan to actually improve the way district schools teach English and math.
In fact, instead of acknowledging the test score disaster, California’s education officials executed a plan to deceive and confuse voters ahead of the November 8 election. The nonpartisan CalMatters reports on the state’s handling of the test results release this way:
“[The California Dept. of Education] did so in a way guaranteed to complicate coverage. Reporters received the data Sunday morning, under a news embargo until 10 a.m.[Monday]. Typically, they use that embargo time to interview district officials and education experts — so releasing test score data when those sources are unavailable hinders reporters’ ability to analyze and contextualize an important measurement of the pandemic’s impact on California’s public school students …
… It’s also likely not a coincidence that the state results [were] released to the public the same day scores on a different test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, were unveiled …”
That’s how our corrupt and politicized government is currently working in California.
“The California Dept. of Education first planned to release state test scores after the election but, in response to the public outcry, begrudgingly released them after early voting had already begun,” said Lance Christensen, Vice President of Education Policy and Government Affairs for California Policy Center. “Then they intentionally released the scores on a weekend to coincide with the release of the national test scores to confuse voters and give themselves as much cover as possible.”
“These are the type of political operatives that are currently in charge of California’s education system,” said Christensen. “That’s why hundreds of parents are running for their local school boards this year to save our schools from the blatant political corruption that’s been on display for the last two years.”
At CPC, we’re helping to reform California’s failed public education system every day. At CPC’s CLEO, we’re training parents to run for school board through our Candidate Academy, and our soon-to-be released training will teach newly-elected school board members how to stand up to the unions in their districts. CPC’s Parent Union is bringing parent groups together to push back against the teacher unions’ agenda at the local level and in Sacramento. And, our Janus project is helping teachers leave their unions.