California’s K-12 Public Schools: Great Results with Diminishing Resources, shows that despite changing demographics and reduced funding, schools are showing great results. The report, released in October by John Mockler and Associates, show that California is making considerable progress when it comes to closing academic achievement gaps between white students and students of color. His data is based on the 2012 Academic Performance Index (API).
“California’s schools are not failing,” Mockler says. “They are not abysmal. They are not deeply flawed. Our schools in California are substantially under resourced in funding and personnel compared to our fellow states, yet still, our students are making incredible, consistent academic progress.”
California’s schools today have changed dramatically in recent years in terms of the numbers of students it serves and the demographics of students in its school system, Mockler notes. California, for example, is educating 2 million more students since 1980, resulting in a staggering 51 percent overall population increase in 32 years.
These additional students present challenges beyond mere numbers.
- In 1980 schools had 326,000 English learners, compared to 1,441,000 in 2010, reflecting a 342 percent increase since 1980. Today, 24 percent of all students are English learners.
- Special education students numbered 361,000 in 1980 compared to 686,000 in 2010, reflecting a 90 percent increase. Today, 11 percent of all students are special needs students.
- Minority students are now the majority, with a 191 percent increase in Latino students; 18 percent increase in African American students; 130 percent increase in Asian American students; and 16 percent decrease in white students since 1980.
Along with the challenges of changing demographics, funding has been cut drastically for our schools, which must do more with less. We were 19th in the nation in per-pupil funding in 1972 compared to 46th in the nation in 2010. In 2008, California schools spent $60,000 less per classroom than the average state in America. California’s classrooms are overrun with students: California ranks 49th out of 50 states in certificated staff to student ratios. Yet, despite being put on a “starvation diet” school achievement has soared:
- Numbers of high-scoring schools (700 to 1000) on the state’s Academic Performance Index went from 31 percent of all schools in 1999 to 82.8 percent of all schools in 2011.
- Numbers of students “proficient” and “advanced” in reading went from 35 percent in 2003 to 57 percent in 2012, showing a 63 percent gain.
- The numbers of all students “proficient” and “advanced” in math went from 35 percent of students in 2003 to 51 percent of students in 2012, showing a 46 percent gain.
Minorities have made huge gains in closing the achievement gap in reading and math, says Mockler, although there is still a long way to go. But the progress we have made should be encouraging. For example:
- 20 percent of Latino students were proficient and advanced in English in 2003, compared to 46 percent in 2012, showing a 130 percent gain.
- 22 percent of African Americans were proficient or advanced in English 2003, compared to 45 percent in 2012, showing a 104 percent gain.
- 23 percent of Latino students were proficient or advanced in math 2003, compared to 42 percent in 2012, showing an 83 percent gain.
- 19 percent of African American students were proficient or advanced in math in 2003, compared to 36 percent in 2012, showing an 89 percent gain.
In other encouraging news regarding the achievement gap:
- English proficiency levels have increased by 63 percent from 2002 to 2012 for English Learners.
- The percentage of African American and Hispanic students who are advanced and proficient as compared to white students went from: 41 percent in 2003 to 62 percent in 2012 for African Americans; and from 38 percent to 63 percent for Latinos.
Mockler recalls that decades ago, high level math and science courses were mostly available to white, college-bound students. Today, they are available to the majority of students, which should be considered a major achievement in itself and applauded.
According to Mockler:
- 1 million more students are taking high end secondary math and science courses in the last nine years.
- The numbers of these students who are proficient in these courses has grown by 158 percent.