Posted on November 2, 2011

California Math, Reading Test Scores Come Up Short

Jill Tucker, San Francisco Chronicle, November 2, 2011

In the race for educational excellence, California hovered near the back of the pack yet again with only Mississippi and the District of Columbia languishing further behind, according to 2011 math and reading scores released Tuesday.


One silver lining in the grim data were significant gains by the state’s African American students, with black fourth-graders outperforming their peers nationwide.

Overall, California’s math and reading scores inched up a few points, contributing to a long-term trend of slow but steady improvement that slightly outpaced national gains over time.


While the money each state spent on schools didn’t always correlate with higher test scores, states with the best scores often outspent most others by a few thousand dollars per student.

High-scoring Massachusetts, for example, spent about $14,000 for each child, compared with a national average of $10,500, according to 2009 Census data. {snip}

California spent about $9,700.

The District of Columbia, which posted the lowest scores, spent $16,400 per student.

With the exception of fourth-grade reading, which was stagnant, scores rose across the country overall since 2009. But only Hawaii showed statistically significant gains in both grades and both subjects.

In mathematics, 40 percent of all fourth-graders and 35 percent of eighth-graders scored at or above proficient in 2011.

In reading, 34 percent of students in both grades were proficient in reading.

In California, 34 percent of fourth-graders and 25 percent of eighth-graders were at least proficient in math, about the same as the year before. In reading, 25 percent of fourth-graders and 24 percent of eighth-graders were proficient.


While the state’s demographics are a liability on national tests, its diversity is also an “untapped asset,” said Arun Ramanathan, executive director of The Education Trust–West, an education advocacy group in Oakland.

“The cultural and linguistic diversity of California’s students should be viewed as a strength that gives us an advantage in an increasingly global economy,” he said.