(The Center Square) – According to a new annual report from the California Department of Education, the majority of public school students in California are not meeting standards in the three main subjects tested by the state.
53% of students don’t meet state literacy standards while 65% don’t meet math and 70% don’t meet science standards.
California Department of Education officials celebrated the numbers as an improvement upon the previous year, noting that math and science proficiency levels increased by 1.2 percentage points and .7 percentage points respectively.
“These data show signs of improvement for our students, but we know that our students and local educational agencies will continue to need sustained support,” said Chief Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Mary Nicely. “California has proactively invested in additional resources to help our students beyond 2024, when the federal relief funding expires, and has set aside billions of dollars for direct services to support interventions for our students, including an additional $300 million ongoing for our most vulnerable students.”
Notably absent from the public release announcing these results was State Superintendent Tony Thurmond, who recently announced his intention to replace Governor Gavin Newsom when he terms out of office.
“California used to be one of the top performing states in the country for K-12 education. Now, too many of California’s schools are letting parents and students down,” said State Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, whose education bill requires the state to release a public school learning report card in October that includes this data.
California allocated an additional $3,018 per student for the 2023-2024 fiscal year budget, bringing per student annual spending by the state up to $16,933, or higher than the national average of $15,446 per student reported by EdSource. This figure does not include local spending, which is often approximately 40% of what is spent per student, bringing a typical California average up from roughly $24,000 to $27,000 per public school student. For reference, the Education Data Initiative estimates the average K-12 private school tuition in California is $16,337.
As a result of a 2019 state auditor’s report finding spending that does not target education gaps does not improve test results, much of this new funding is directed at improving the performance of low-achieving students.
In addition to growing the education budget this year, the California legislature also extended an existing ban on suspensions for willful defiance — “disrupting school activities or otherwise willfully defying the valid authority of school staff — all the way through 12th grade, and ended an exemption for charter schools from the ban, a move experts say will make improving test scores more difficult.