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Lesson 1.1

California Context:
Are California’s Schools Really Behind?

California kids are just like other states’ kids, right?

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Few people really understand the massive California school system accurately — even in "normal" times.

It's easy to think we understand how education works. After all, we lived through their own education, right? But a dose of humility is in order. The education system as a whole rarely changes much from one year to the next, but it has changed quite significantly since the Great Recession of 2008, and even more drastically since the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. Even in ordinary times, myths and outdated ideas have a funny way of sticking around.

Ed100 exists to demystify the California school system. Let's start with the obvious: the system is really, really big.

California's Huge School Structures

Millions of students. California is home to 40 million people, including about 6 million students in K-12 grades. About one of every seven people in California is a K-12 student. Each grade level enrolls roughly half a million students.

Thousands of schools. There are about 11,000 schools in California — more schools than Starbucks.

Thousands of teachers. Throughout the USA, there are more teachers than soldiers, doctors, lawyers, or police officers. There are about 320,000 teachers in California.

Billions of hours. Each K-12 student spends about 1,000 hours in school per year, for an annual collective total of 6.7 billion hours. For perspective, that's more than the cumulative hours spent over a decade to launch the Apollo mission. It's about 20 times greater than the total hours spent to build the pyramid at Giza.

Billions of dollars. California has a giant economy. Expenditures for K-12 education account for about 3% of it. (This isn't impressive in context, which we'll discuss later, in Lesson 8.1. For now, the point is that the system is big.)

There are sound reasons why this mammoth education system has to be particularly complex. Similar to Texas and Florida (and unlike, say, New York), California's population has grown and changed rapidly. The school system has had to grow and change with it.

Students have all kinds of different needs. To serve those needs and balance among them, the education system must be simultaneously massive and personal, which makes complexity unavoidable. To work for all students, it has to work for each student — even in a pandemic. That's an authentic challenge.

Breaking it Down

In California, about one student in five lives in poverty. About a fifth are learning English. Some kids come to school ready for kindergarten, but most don't. About an eighth have learning disabilities. All students need teachers that can teach complex material. And effective leaders. And access to the arts. Which takes money. And...

... and we're getting ahead of ourselves. Getting education right requires getting lots of things right. It's too much to think about all of them at once, so Ed100 breaks it down. It's easier to make sense of the system if you take it one topic at a time. Ed100 explains California's education system, busts myths, and explains what you need to know.

Wait, you might ask — do I really need to understand the system that governs California schools? Is it even possible? The answer is yes and yes.

Understanding the system is helpful for the sake of your own kids, of course, and the point of Ed100 is to make the system learnable. But there's something bigger: like it or not, you, as an involved parent or community member, are the heart of California's education accountability system. There is no independent watchdog in the system. You are it. The system literally depends on the vigilant support of local, active, informed constituents to speak up for what's right and what's needed.

To wield influence when you need it, you have to know what you are talking about. Ed100 can help with that.

California school results have improved a lot over the long term. But they are still pretty mediocre, and the pandemic hurt.

Ed100's core content is a set of short lessons, including this one. (We have a blog, too, which provides more detail and helps make sense of disruptive conditions like the coronavirus pandemic. We also have a toolbox to help encourage conversation and learning — but the lessons are the core content.) You are reading Lesson 1.1, the first lesson of the first chapter. At the bottom of each lesson you will find a simple quiz that reinforces a main point. Pass a quiz and you earn a ticket (more about that in a moment); pass every quiz and you become an Ed100 Graduate.

You can do this. It's free, and it matters. If you complete all of the lessons you will become, in the words of one state leader, "intimidatingly well-informed." (She wasn't being tongue-in-cheek. Informed parents aren't easy to dismiss.)

Here's the main point of Lesson 1.1: California's K-12 educational results have improved a lot over the long term. But they are still pretty mediocre.

How can we tell if California schools are behind?

Schools serve many purposes, some straightforward and others hard to measure. Obviously, one of the central jobs of school is to help students learn grade-level academic stuff.

Each year (with an exception in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic) some of America's 4th and 8th graders take tests for the "Nation’s Report Card." Education insiders rarely call it by that name. To insiders, these tests are known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP. (It's pronounced "nape.")

Very few children actually take the NAEP tests.

Only a few hundred thousand children actually take the NAEP tests. These are not the tests that all students are required to take each year. (Those are called the CAASPP, or the "Smarter Balanced" tests.) NAEP is separate, and its purpose is purely statistical. Designed to be consistent from place to place and from year to year, it evaluates how well students know the basic academic content associated with their grade level. Scores on NAEP, though imperfect, enable researchers and policymakers to monitor the overall education system, comparing student achievement between years, states, grades, and student subgroups (for example by race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic factors like family income).

NAEP scores don't tend to change quickly. Frankly, almost nothing in the education system changes quickly — and this is a recurring theme of Normally, scores bump up or down a point or two, but the best predictor of next year's score tends to be last year's score. It makes sense, right? The education system is like an armada of giant ships, each rowed by thousands of little oars. Each year the people rowing have a lot in common with those who rowed the year before.

The underlying currents surrounding a school community tend to change slowly, too. Books and tools might change a little. Teachers evolve their lessons, or move, or retire, or shift grades. But on the whole, change tends to happen slowly in each school system.

There are exceptions.

On a national basis, NAEP scores dropped during the pandemic. School districts strained, with uneven success, to make access to technology universal. Teachers strained to figure out ways to make learning engaging at a distance. The pandemic also accelerated resentment about standardized tests — especially the SAT and ACT tests. Even so, when we look back years from now it will be interesting to see whether the outcomes changed very much.

California's scores are low. And also ordinary.

California's children tend to score poorly on the NAEP tests. The chart below shows the overall rate at which groups of children in each state have scored at the level deemed proficient or better over time. (The chart averages fourth and eighth-grade math and reading proficiency rates.) California is represented by the thick orange line. (Massachusetts is the one on top. Hover over the chart for details. (Full model here.)

Unfortunately for California kids, these stubborn scores appear to matter. Education reporters often describe a ten-point difference in NAEP scores as representing about a year of learning. Some researchers dispute this rule of thumb, but if true, California's average students are years behind those in top-scoring states like Massachusetts. Meanwhile, California's less-advantaged students (those qualifying for free or reduced-price meals) are scoring a year behind less-advantaged students in Mississippi.


Perhaps these tests aren’t quite fair to California students. For example, administration of the test may vary a little by state. Some states provide extra testing time to English learners. Texas, for example, doesn't make students take the test if they are so new to English that they would bomb it. These small differences in administration probably matter a bit; small differences in state scores shouldn't be taken too seriously. Also, maybe the rule of thumb is wrong. Maybe ten points of difference on a NAEP test isn't equivalent to a year, but more like nine months. Or six. Anyway, tests don’t tell the whole story, right? There are many ways to measure success.

California’s children are not within quibbling distance of the skills of children elsewhere in the country.

These quibbles miss the point. The fourth grade reading assessment evaluates whether children can read short passages and understand them. The math questions are similarly basic. Year after year, the big picture is clear: compared to other states, California's students aren't within quibbling distance. California's students are behind.

Ask a family that has moved to California from the east coast for their perspective. At minimum, they will almost certainly tell you that class sizes in California schools are much, much bigger. (In 2019 ChildrenNow, a nonprofit organization, compared high schools in California, Illinois and New Jersey to document some of the differences. The report is titled Not Enough Adults to Go Around.)

Does it matter if California children start off slowly, one might ask, so long as they catch up later? Unfortunately, most don’t. For many years, research has shown that children not reading at grade level by the end of third grade are at serious risk of never graduating from high school.

Are poor results somehow better for California, or for kids, if they can be “explained...?”

It's important to acknowledge that most of California's NAEP scores look less bad if you "disaggregate" them, looking beneath the averages to compare the scores of students with similar advantages and disadvantages. The Urban Institute helpfully shed light on this issue: "Comparing NAEP scores assumes that states serve the same students—and we know they don’t." Using 2019 data, they produced a report called America's Gradebook. By its reckoning, the real star of US public education is Minnesota:

Education differences can be profoundly local. Yet another report, A Portrait of Educational Outcomes in California, suggested in 2019 that there was little difference between affluent districts in California and affluent districts nationally. “The disparity between California and the nation is concentrated in average and disadvantaged districts where California students score nearly a full grade level behind their national counterparts. These patterns are consistent when the same comparisons are made within each racial/ethnic group.”

So... Blame the Kids?

Wait, some might ask — does this mean California’s lackluster NAEP scores can be explained by demographics? This question begs another in return: should it matter? Are poor results somehow better for California, or for kids, if they can be "explained" by the state’s larger numbers of children of color and children in poverty? Is it useful to imagine it as their fault? The children in our schools grow up to become the workers and leaders of our communities. If we want California to have a bright future, can we afford to accept demographics as an excuse for bad scores? Or are systemic inequalities at play here?

California kids with more needs tend to rank low in NAEP test scores

In any case, the data leave little room for denial. California’s children in poverty generally score starkly behind those in other states, as do California's Hispanic/Latinx students. But California's white children aren't exactly leading the parade, either, and neither are California's kids that don't qualify for the lunch program.

State-level results don't change quickly.

These results are not accidental or surprising. They do not tend to zigzag from one year to the next or change quickly in response to small changes in policy or practice. They are the long-term output of a large, complex system. In the 2022 NAEP results, California's ranking looked better among the states, but not because California's results improved. On the contrary — California scores dropped, just not by as much as other states.

One important finding from the "Portrait" report mentioned above is that California's system has historically underperformed at each level. Gaps, lags and disparities start early and tend to get worse, not better. This is a national challenge, and perhaps a global one, but California has an impressively bad record at addressing it.

Themes of Ed100

As you read Ed100, a few themes will emerge, like these:

Some Themes of Ed100

California's education system is massive, but education is personal.
Easy answers are tempting, but usually wrong.
For education to work well, many things have to work well at the same time.
Money isn't magic, but it can buy things that sure help. On the other hand, the lack of money can really hurt.
Not everything of value in education is denominated in dollars.
Reforms have a shot at making a difference if they change who is in the room or how time is spent. (A Mockler maxim)
Prevention beats cure.
The long-term trends are almost all good. Better to be impatient than pessimistic.
People working in education almost always have good motives. Listen harder.
Punishment rarely builds capacity.
Public education ultimately relies on public will, measured in taxes.
Not all research is good research. Be suspicious of counterintuitive findings.
When in doubt, look at what rich families do for their kids. (A Mockler maxim)

Perhaps you found your way to Ed100 because you want to help make things better. There are many approaches to change, and we will explore them one by one. It's important to lay the groundwork first, so let’s broaden the context a bit. The next lesson examines how California compares not just to America, but to the world.

Scroll down just a little more to take the quiz for this lesson. Pass it, earn your ticket and keep going!

This page was updated February 2023.
Previous updates include:
May, 2018 with refreshed state rankings.
September 2018 with GDTFII findings about the persistence of pre-K gaps.
Reviewed September, 2019
Revised November, 2019
Revised February, 2020
Revised March, 2020
Revised August, 2021
Revised July, 2022
Revised NAEP data, Dec, 2022 and Feb 2023


True or False: The "Nation's Report Card" (NAEP) test is administered to ALL students, annually.

Answer the question correctly and earn a ticket.
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Questions & Comments

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user avatar
Yolande Beckles1 April 1, 2024 at 10:50 am
Will be sharing Ed100 with my parents that I train and lead in the second largest school district, LAUSD. A great tool for learning and commenting.
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Ariel Locke November 22, 2022 at 9:24 am
For a 1.1 info session this is extremely insightful. Thank you for this website and the consistent work you do to educate families.
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Albert Stroberg September 26, 2022 at 12:28 pm
I did not see a listing of ranks by spending/student in a district. There are significant differences in such spending in California. Does it help, or make any difference?
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Jeff Camp - Founder October 7, 2022 at 9:58 am
The short answer is that resources matter, and money can pay for resources. Chapter 8 digs into this area in some depth. California delivers dollars to districts based on the number of students, the grade level, attendance, household income, and English learning status.
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Carol Kocivar July 5, 2022 at 3:15 pm
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has been the gold standard of achievement testing for over 50 years. But getting it in shape for the next 50 years does not come without challenges. Chester Finn, Jr., explains why preserving the NAEP from today’s political battles will require several key changes.
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Selisa Loeza October 22, 2021 at 11:33 pm
"There is no independent watchdog in the system. You are it. " This course/experience is the most empowering tool as a parent to embrace this. Thank you.
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Peter McManus February 18, 2021 at 8:05 pm
Are all schools and/or districts represented in the NAEP testing?
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Sonya Hendren June 30, 2020 at 3:41 am
Many of us grew up with a sense of California-exceptionalism: we're the 5th largest economy in the world, we have Hollywood, beaches, and palm trees, everyone wants to vacation here, when you travel internationally "say you're from California, not from the US," silicon valley is the forefront of technology, we're more liberal and progressive, etc., so it's quite surprising to hear for the first time that California schools are at the back of the pack.
I remember visiting the midwest at least 10 years ago and being surprised that all the students were issued laptops, when California didn't even do that yet.
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Sonya Hendren June 28, 2020 at 10:35 pm
That NAEP chart is interactive (click on the black triangles at the top.) Cool!
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veronica clementel October 28, 2019 at 3:54 pm
How do they chose which students take the NAEP?
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Jeff Camp - Founder November 1, 2019 at 6:30 pm
They try to make the selection random, while ensuring that they have a sample large enough in each state to make statistically meaningful inferences about patterns among subgroups of test-takers. You can read more on the Nations Report Card site.
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Willem Vroegh1 September 9, 2019 at 9:09 pm
Are there any reports that show how CA students' CAASP/SBAC scores compare to students in other states that also administer the SBAC?
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Jeff Camp - Founder November 1, 2019 at 6:32 pm
Interesting question, but I haven't looked into it. The gold standard for interstate comparisons is the NAEP. This kind of comparison is basically why it exists!
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David Shahal April 26, 2019 at 9:02 am
My wife and I are both members of the PTA at our son's school. We haven't been able to attend meetings due to other commitments or work getting in the way. We are in constant contact with our son's teacher through the ClassDojo app. I'm glad I found to learn more about what we parents can do to help our son and his school. Right now the district is about $3.5 million dollars in the red and will have to lay off teachers and cut programs, we hope we can avoid that. Thank you for a great website and great lessons. I look forward to learning more.
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Jeff Camp April 27, 2019 at 11:30 am
Thanks for the nice note, David! When you communicate with others in your district about the $3.5 million shortfall, you can help make it real by restating it in terms of either students or teachers. $3.5 million in a big district is budget dust — in a small district it is a huge number. You can find information about the number of students and teachers in your district on the Ed-data website. This is also a good source for financial data about the district. The conversation will undoubtedly turn to ways of raising funding. You’ll find good info about all that in chapter 8. I hope that you’ll persist through the lessons in and become a graduate!
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Minerva Zermeno March 11, 2019 at 11:48 pm
How is the sample of students selected?
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Jeff Camp March 18, 2019 at 3:52 pm
The NAEP test (the "Nation's Report Card" test) is administered to a "sample" of students large enough and diverse enough to permit reasonable conclusions across a range of useful questions, emphasizing public schools in grades 4, 8 and 12. More details are available here:
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Namrata Mundhra February 25, 2019 at 8:11 am
As a parent who was at a recent PTA meeting - it struck me that who is at the table really matters. If an informed, engaged parent community is essential to student success but we haven't found a way to get parents, specially those parents whose kids are most at need, at the table - we are only really addressing the concerns of the privileged few. As you indicate above, reforms can make a difference if they change who is in the room. I think as parents, we can do our bit right there.
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Caryn February 25, 2019 at 10:55 am
Hi Namrata, thanks for your comment. Who is at the table absolutely matters! All parents should be but for myriad reasons, it all too often falls to a select handful who show up. Parents have been allowed to hover around the periphery for so long that the idea of parents playing an essential role in the success of California's education system sounds like a novel concept. Building informed and engaged parent communities isn't just going to happen. Which is why we hope you take the Ed100 lessons and share them far and wide. At Ed100, we want informed and engaged parents at the table in every California school so you can make a difference.
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Minerva Hernandez November 25, 2018 at 1:18 pm
why there is only one value number rather than the range on California's Rank on NAEP 2017 for white students group ? someone knows the actual range?
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Miela November 1, 2018 at 8:36 pm
I'm in 5th grade and this is WAY more fun and interesting than Lexia reading.
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Caryn November 6, 2018 at 12:57 pm
Hi Miela, thanks for stopping in. You actually taught me something because I had to look up what Lexia reading is! Whatever you do, never stop reading.
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Eunice Su October 31, 2018 at 7:19 pm
I'm just going through my preliminary administrative services credential program. Ed100 is helping me stay current and relevant!
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Caryn November 6, 2018 at 12:54 pm
Thanks for the kind words, Eunice. Best of luck with your program. We would love to hear more from you as you work toward becoming an Ed100 graduate.
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September 22, 2018 at 7:25 am
I really am learning a lot and enjoying the material but if I am to use it in a speech I need to site my source and you are not listing sources. Could you provide your sources? Caron
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Caryn September 22, 2018 at 8:07 am
Hi there Caron, thanks for your comment-we are glad to hear that you are both learning and enjoying the material. Ed100 works hard to provide relevant, data-driven content. The links included in the lessons take readers to many of the sources utilized but we can always do better. Is there a particular data point that you are unable to find the source for?
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Sonya Hendren September 9, 2018 at 6:12 pm
As an Ed100 graduate:
Yes, I learned many things I didn't know before. But more importantly, ed100 put together, in a very organized manner, what had previously been very disjointed knowledge for me. As an interested parent, you learn snippets of this and that, here and there, but it doesn't have full context. Ed100 puts everything together. Its great for summaries with links where you can read more if you need the details on that topic. If you do the entire course, it's great for putting educational issues in context and giving a better sense of magnitude than "how often the topic appears in the news."
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Caryn September 10, 2018 at 9:12 am
Hi Sonya, thanks for your great comment. We love our Ed100 graduates! Congratulations on finishing the course and becoming a more informed parent leader. We look forward to hearing more about how you've applied your Ed100 knowledge to improve your school community.
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putneydog June 2, 2018 at 7:19 am
Do you know how children are selected to take the NAEP test?
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Jeff Camp June 5, 2018 at 10:36 pm
The process is described here: How the NAEP sample is selected. It's similar to how a statistically representative survey is designed and administered so that it can be consistent from one year to the next.
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jacquelinebispo May 29, 2018 at 12:29 pm
Agree! Ed100 lessons are fabulous for ANYONE!! I've encouraged a number of colleagues to jump on and all have excited shared that they learn in every single lesson. We've begun parent workshops in the district to encourage more to engage with Ed100 and it's going well so far! Thank you so much for this incredibly valuable resource!
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Jeff Camp May 29, 2018 at 10:42 pm
What a nice comment -- Thanks, Jacqueline! You might be interested in our new series of tools to help PTA leaders pull together and persist through to becoming Ed100 graduates. The general idea is to plan ahead to complete one chapter per month. We are introducing new Ed100 discussion guides and videos to support this approach.
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Jeff Camp May 9, 2018 at 10:28 pm
Important to acknowledge: in 2017, California was one of the states where NAEP scores improved, overall. Few have swaggered about it much because (as indicated above) the state still has such a long way to go.
user avatar
Carol Kocivar April 8, 2018 at 2:07 pm
"Money and Freedom: The Impact of California’s School Finance Reform"
This new research suggests that money targeted to the needs of students, and allocated by local districts to meet those needs, can make a difference in student outcomes.

Read the report

user avatar
August 1, 2017 at 5:46 pm
In the paragraph asking if someone or something is to blame for low California NAEP scores, I get that the idea is there's no one someone or something. But missing from the list is underfunding. You get what you pay for. And while that is not the entire answer, it deserves to be part of the list, and a big part.
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Carol Kocivar July 1, 2017 at 5:30 pm
You can find how well students do on the California state assessments on the CAASPP website:
In 2016, more than half of the students at almost every grade tested did not meet the California standards.
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Caryn-C September 18, 2017 at 12:04 pm
Another aggravating reality--in 2016 more than half didn't meet the standards? And to be honest, California standards don't seem that sky high in the first place.
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Hari Titan September 8, 2018 at 11:35 am
I wrote a county-level browser for CAASPP results a few years ago: It lets you check out schools in up to 3 counties at any grade level for Math or ESL.
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Meilani Hendrawidjaja May 8, 2017 at 12:27 pm
I am really surprised to see that California's scores are that low.
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May 3, 2017 at 11:13 am
Some student does not do well on the test because they do not work well under pressure.
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Carol Kocivar December 29, 2016 at 3:39 pm
You can find a history of California's NAEP results on California Department of Education web site that includes comparisons with other states as well as results based on ethnicity and low-income.
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Karen September 29, 2016 at 1:50 pm
Thank you for the information. Its very useful and important. However I think language is important. I don't think we should ever describe an accommodation such as the one mentioned for Texan ELs as 'cheating'. We can debate whether accommodations for distinct groups are neccessary or useful but I do not think we should not use emotive language to describe it.
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Carol Kocivar October 15, 2016 at 11:44 am
Thanks for your close reading and suggestion.
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Carol Kocivar June 12, 2016 at 5:40 pm
The Urban Institute provides state comparisons of NAEP scores adjusted for demographics.
Take a look at where California ranks. Tip: Look towards the very bottom of the chart.
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The Village Method December 31, 2015 at 7:47 pm
In our district, it seems as though there are more stereotypes on how well students should be able to do. With the community being, largely, Asian and Filipino (50%) it's almost as though the culture and community is driven by their interests. However, Latino and Black students are continually performing at the lowest levels within a resource-rich district. Parents living in the city are not engaged in what it requires to ensure a student succeeds. Teachers cater to the "easier" students versus dealing with those that have challenges (social, emotional, academic). When our group asked parents how well they think the district performs and then the state...they were shocked to discover the demographics. What was also a shock to them was the low performance amongst all the demographics in various subjects.
Looking at our local performance levels in relation to the state-wide and national...seems to reveal more than what administrators are prepared to address.
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jmjamiealita April 27, 2016 at 8:51 pm
I don't know what you base your state on in regards to "Parents living in the city are not engaged in what it requires to ensure a student succeeds. Teachers cater to the "easier" students versus dealing with those that have challenges( social,emotional,academic)." I am a Parent Volunteer and I know for a fact that in spite of the parent's personal obstacles , for example not having a middle school or high school diploma does not keep them from being involved in school activities that enhances test taking techniques, and time management techniques for homework. Also over 40 percent of our student population are special ed. students that have social,physical, emotional, and delayed memory problems. As well as those who are in need of help academically. In spite of the fact that there are some who have "low"test scores, there are some who test "exceptionally well" when it comes to test regardless that their in special ed. or not.
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brooke.blackmore November 4, 2015 at 8:08 pm
I have seen some excellent commentary and read some great questions. As a mother of very intelligent young people and a stickler for homework, I strongly believe that there are many tangible variables that contribute to the low test scores and in my opinion, the cheif one is lack of hope. Call me crazy, many do, but if students don't have hope they are not likely to dream. No dreams, no goals. No goals, zero motivation to do much of anything worthwhile. I see it in my senior, who spent many years with a father that told him he would never need the math he was learning and still struggles with basic math concepts. Those that believe in our kids, our students, our true natural resources will continue to inspire and support to the best of our ability. Our kids need to learn how to do this for themselves and each other, to never ever give up.
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Jeff Camp - Founder November 6, 2015 at 3:28 pm
Motivation is a challenging and vital aspect of education. Have a look at Lesson 2.6 for more on the subject.
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rxc2674 September 26, 2015 at 10:14 pm
Funding cuts happen across the board and it has become difficult to provide services to students that need them most. Many school administrators and teachers have to wear many hats and this in some ways derails what teachers need to focus on and that is teaching. Lets get back the funding needed to give our students the services they deserve and need to become productive citizens of our future.
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hetds June 10, 2015 at 11:12 am
Since California's Governor Brown and the CA Legislature
have terminated ALL PARENT EDUCATION CLASSES (aka Mommy and Me), I confidently predict even worse academic results for our students.
In our El Monte-Rosemead Adult School we have provided Parent Education classes since 1936.
Now, these classes have been liquidated in Adult Schools in CA.
How does this Parent Education Program work?
For three classes per week with three hours per class,
each child is accompanied for the entire class period by a caring adult. Under the guidance of an expert, credentialed Early Childhood Educator and an experienced Teacher's Assistant, the children ages two to four prepare academically, socially, and physically for Kindergarten.
This is truly class-size reduction as it should be.
Headstart, Pre-School, and Kindergarten Readiness have only one adult teacher (and sometimes an assistant)
To "teach" up to 25 kids. Is this possible?
Graduates from Parent Education Classes (which often include grandparents, aunts, uncles, adult siblings, and even caring adult neighbors) go on to success in K to college.
Yet, our state "leaders" decided to kill off
A proven educational program, which has so successfully
educated pre-schoolers and which prepare their adult family members to support these little ones throughout their schooling.
Also, the now defunct Parent Education Programs introduced immigrants, minorities, and the economically disadvantaged to how to succeed in school.
It's now gone, without any media coverage nor public discussion whatsoever.
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bthiesen June 30, 2015 at 10:28 pm
Although there have been funding cuts, not all districts have cut these programs. Our district continues to provide a Mommy & Me program as well as a strong parent education component. These are foundational programs for all students but especially students living in poverty.
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Nivedita Sahasrabudhe December 15, 2018 at 11:47 am
@hetds It is a sad state of affairs that funding was pulled for these very important Adult Ed programs. My children attended parent ed heavy co-op preschools and I saw first hand how these preschools - really valuable community resources - are struggling to survive without that partial funding from the state. They are having to scale back the parent participation and parent ed component to attract a wider audience, not because they don't believe in those components, but because they need to survive. Given how little the fabulous teachers were paid in the first place, that partial support could not have been very heavy on the state. So many of us that were parents at these preschools are now in leadership positions in PTAs and beyond. Clearly we learnt something useful at these parent ed co-op schools.
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omedina May 20, 2015 at 1:49 pm
Another factor to consider are the significant differences in the percentage of English learners (EL) enrolled in each state. There are also differences within EL populations. For example, the EL population I currently serve is much more often underschooled than EL's in other parts of California. Also, EL's are on a trajectory to acquire academic English over time; thus, the relatively high percentage of EL's in the early grades can and does impact California's average NAEP scores. Average scores in 8th grade are still affected by the fact that close to 80% of all EL's at that grade level are long-term EL's (with limited academic language mastery.)
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arienneadamcikova April 20, 2015 at 9:50 pm
There are many other studies that show that poverty is the driving factor behind the achievement gap. Who funds this site?
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Jeff Camp - Founder April 20, 2015 at 11:40 pm
Thanks, Arienne -- Yes, poverty is massively entangled with achievement gaps. Poverty is discussed alongside race in Lesson 2.2, and the topic of Achievement Gaps is further discussed in Lesson 9.6. Regarding the funding of Ed100: the content of this site has been substantially driven by volunteers (including me). Funding for technical web site development, fact-checking and translation to Spanish has been provided (as of this writing) by the Stuart Foundation, the Kabcenell Foundation and Full Circle Fund. (The Noyce Foundation also provided some help very early on, when Ed100 was a PDF and a notion that it shouldn't be so hard for people of good will to learn about education issues in a coherent way.) If we add other major supporters (which would, by the way, be lovely), we will add them with our thanks on the About page.
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omedina May 20, 2015 at 1:43 pm
There are also studies indicating that well-designed, well-implemented, research-based programs can overcome the effects of poverty (low academic language in the home, reduced access to technology, limited extra-curricular activities, preschool, etc.)
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organodeflaco April 20, 2015 at 5:03 pm
How do they determine poverty levels??? By how expensive gasoline is??? Economical factors should be inserted such as prices of commodities ... Test scores are just that... Many a fine talents have gone awry for not "passing" test... The list goes on and on...
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jbrenee9 March 15, 2015 at 10:12 am
There is a lot of factors when studying the two different states. For example, are more students in poverty level here? Is the same curriculum taught in the same amount of time? Are the same tests given? It would be interesting to see a different states classroom and if they "run" their class close to the same.
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terirafiq March 15, 2015 at 10:07 am
People in this community seldom take part in these topics. As far as parent involvement is concerned, they communicate with school staff during parent teacher conferences only.
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Jeff Camp - Founder March 15, 2015 at 11:39 am
Thanks, Terirafiq -- you raise an important point. When I'm asked to describe the core audience of Ed100 my answer is parent LEADERS. Not all parents. Most parents aren't very interested in understanding the education system, much less influencing it. But some are, and that makes all the difference. Ed100 is designed in the belief that in each school community there are a few people who are determined to get involved and make their school the best it can be. Those are our people. They need knowledge to be prepared, persuasive and effective. Education is a huge system, and you can't influence a system responsibly without understanding it. The barriers to real understanding are high. Until Ed100, there was no reasonable way to learn about the system intentionally, in a holistic way, including the interconnections between issues and variations in perspective. That's the role that Ed100 exists to serve. It's not meant to be for everybody- but it IS for anybody who might feel drawn to make a difference. An Ed100 completion certificate represents an investment of time and attention in understanding the issues of a complex system.
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gwenhourihan March 11, 2015 at 9:55 pm
Okay but this is a far bigger topic than test scores. We all know that. Are they taking the same test in California and Massachusetts, etc? Is the curriculum the same? My daughter is being taught a chapter a week in Science in 8th grade -- that's crazy -- and someone tested on parts of a chapter they haven't even discussed in class yet! To me THAT is a bigger issue. What is being taught, the curriculum, and teaching kids to love learning. That is not happening for her right now. Does she have to wait until college? That may be too late.
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Jeff Camp - Founder March 12, 2015 at 10:57 am
Hi, Gwen -- The challenging topic of how to measure success (for students and for schools) is a focus of Chapter 9. In answer to your question the NAEP test is the same nationwide, but there are some state-level variations in who takes the test (involving policies for English learners and students designated special ed). The NAEP test isn't the one that your kids take - it is given only to a sample of students in order to provide a way of getting beyond the political fray and approaching an apples-to-apples metric. Love of learning is an element of student motivation, discussed in lesson 2.6. The content of learning (the standards, curriculum and materials) is the focus of Chapter 6 ("The Right Stuff"). Thanks for the comment! Keep reading, and good luck in the drawing!
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harplits March 11, 2015 at 9:00 pm
I believe I have dismissed these statistics in the past attributing them to the vibrant immigration dynamics of this state. However, when I see that New York and Florida 4th grades are scoring above in reading it raises many questions.
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ms March 3, 2015 at 4:23 pm
Very thought provoking lesson! I'd seek to understand how much California is spending per student, say compared to MA or TX.
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Jeff Camp - Founder March 3, 2015 at 5:16 pm
Thanks, MS. The ten-chapter "flow" of Ed100 is "Education is Students and Teachers spending Time in Places for Learning with the Right Stuff in a System with Resources for Success. (So Now What?). The topic of money is principally addressed in Chapter 8 (the chapter on "Resources".) Have a look at Lesson 8.1 and 8.2 for information about how California compares to other states such as MA or TX.
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jenzteam February 27, 2015 at 6:12 am
My thought is that so many kids are transient - meaning they move from school to school based on parents finances. We desperately want to move out of our neighborhood but don't have the option unless we are willing to put our kids in a bad school just to save some money on rent and utilities. It's a hard choice that we make. But we stay where we are at so our kids have consistency. School and district boundaries make it difficult to keep your kids where they have established relationships/friendships. So we have to bite the cost of staying where we are at instead of being able to buy a home. It's a lose-lose situation.
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Jeff Camp - Founder February 27, 2015 at 3:44 pm
Thanks, Jenzteam. You might be interested in Lesson 5.1 in the " a Place for Learning" chapter of Ed100.
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melvill97 February 6, 2015 at 9:06 pm
This talks about demographics, and "catching up", but California, in my opinion, is unique in that we have a large number immigrants moving here all the time with children of all ages. How does this affect the test results, and do we have or are we using resources to support these students effectively. Could it be the number of new English learners will continually skew these results so long as we have families immigrating at such a high rate?
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anamendozasantiago February 5, 2015 at 4:35 pm
While many students are behind...we cannot ignore California students who are above grade level. There is very little resources (if any) for these students. We have very talented and gifted students in CA but our education system expects them to sit, wait or tutor struggling students. We are holding many of our talented students back with lack of funding. We need an education system that serves all our students.
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Jeff Camp - Founder February 5, 2015 at 6:29 pm
Thanks @anamendozasantiago -- yes, as you point out, the funding system does not provide differentiated funding for gifted students. The system does make some differentiations, which are explored in lesson 8.5, about the Local Control Funding Formula. Funding for special education is summarized in Lesson 2.7
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Emily RossBrown February 25, 2015 at 10:37 am
Having recently been exposed to the "GATE" (gifted and talented) program from a child participant who declared it "boring, and no different than regular school work". I wonder if instead of making children wait for others to catch up, if we could perhaps hold ALL children up to the highest academic level and if any are struggling have those that have finished the work help those who are behind? Peer to peer assistance - it can only benefit the entire class.
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Jeff Camp - Founder February 26, 2015 at 9:48 am
Emily, you might be interested in lesson 5.3, which addresses the topic of selectivity, and Lesson 2.7, which discusses the use of individual learning plans in the context of special needs. There is no state mandate or directed funding for GATE programs -- under Local Control Funding (LCFF) these are investment choices that districts and schools make.
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EdMom March 8, 2016 at 11:56 am
I agree. While there are many struggling to come close to meeting the basic standards, there is definitely a group of high achieving students that are being left out. The test scores being talked about are just for the PUBLIC schools and many parents of high achieving students who are able to are taking their students out of the public schools and turning to alternative schooling, whether homeschool, charter schools, or private schools in an effort to provide the challenge and interest that their children need.
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amosmickey January 22, 2015 at 9:42 am
I am curious how much funding, class size, infrastructure and teacher training compares between CA and the other states? We have faced cuts in our education budgets for some time now due to the budget shortfall and it is only started to creep up again. Anyone has any data points or ideas?
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Jeff Camp - Founder January 22, 2015 at 9:16 pm
@AmosMickey: Regarding funding, have a look at ed100 chapter 8, which focuses on resources. California's large class sizes are discussed in lesson 4.2. For teacher training try using Ed100's search function to look for "professional development." For comparisons of California and other states on a variety of dimensions related to education, click over to and look for the "States in Motion" charts.
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Sherry Schnell January 22, 2015 at 9:08 am
California is also well behind other states in funding education. While correlation does not prove causation, I think we need to look at the funding to get at this problem.
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Jeff Camp - Founder January 22, 2015 at 9:27 pm
Thanks, Sherry -- I think you'll appreciate lesson 8.1, which examines California's skimpy funding for education.
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glendalearn January 17, 2015 at 10:33 am
How have we as a state not been able to incorporate the best practices to let students succeed. We were not always this low. What influences distract our students from being able to learn?
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1karenmcgarry January 16, 2015 at 4:42 pm
Perhaps the testing climate has produced a problem and we are testing ability out of our learners, no matter the demographic. I would also like to offer the evidence on creative learning as having a positive impact on overall academic ability in those parts of the country where arts education are standard in the K-12 educational arena - CA does not have arts education as standard curriculum complnents in the K-5 level. Other states that do have arts programming may score higher as a result.
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Jeff Camp - Founder January 18, 2015 at 2:17 pm
Thanks, Karen. For more about testing, please see lessons 6.5 and 9.3. On the broad topic of creativity, see 1.8. For the arts, check lesson 6.8. A full table of contents of lessons in Ed100 is available at our lessons page, and the search function, always available at the top of the page (look for the magnifying glass icon), searches across all of our lesson pages and blog entries.
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EdMom March 8, 2016 at 12:01 pm
This is where parent-teacher groups (PTA, etc.) can have an impact. There are grants and funding available to help, but there need to be willing parent leaders and teachers to get it into the classrooms. Wouldn't it be great for teachers to assign various art projects as homework to solidify math or language concepts, even for the youngest grades?
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mistaire November 8, 2014 at 1:53 pm
California’s students are behind disregard of the subgroup: This is known fact, and a consistent fact for many many years.
The real question here is what has (have) been done to address the issue, and why the awful result continue to be a constant for California.
Aude J. (an active parent)
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