June 22, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

California Kids Holding Own In Math, Science:

Maybe it’s time to stop the steady stream of handwringing over how poorly America’s schoolkids, and California’s in particular, perform in subjects like math and science and realize they are actually doing OK, even if there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

That’s the takeaway from 2011 test scores in the Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMS), an exam given by some states and 46 other countries and provinces. The 2011 results, latest available, were released earlier this fall. (Because only nine states administered the actual TIMS tests, researchers at the National Center for Education Statistics used data from other tests to compare.)

They show American public school students have some way to go in catching up with students in several other countries, but are far ahead of students in many others. Yes, American kids trail those in Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Israel, Russia and Finland, but they are above average and ahead of their counterparts in England, Australia, Italy, New Zealand, Sweden and Thailand, to name just a few. (http://nces.ed.gov/timss/)

California public schoolers are just a tad behind the American average, trailing England and New Zealand, but ahead of Sweden, Norway, Ukraine, Turkey and Chile, to name a few, on the tests given to kids in the fourth and eighth grades.

Two factors make the California scores seem lower than they probably should: The huge number of English learners in this state’s schools and the large percentage of California kids attending private and parochial schools. English learners are at a disadvantage when taking tests administered in English – and 23.2 percent of California public school students in 2011 were English learners – while many nonpublic schools don’t bother with some standardized tests, often administering only the National Assessment of Educational Progress exam.

Fully 8.7 percent of all California schoolkids attend non-public schools, where tuition can range above $30,000. That means results of the state’s standardized testing often don’t include the children of the state’s wealthiest and best-educated adults. This skews average test scores downward sharply, even if no one can say exactly how much.

Meanwhile, all kids in the other countries using the TIMS tests actually take them. So California’s score of 493 on TIMS, compared with an international average of 500, is misleading for sure. It leaves out kids who will go on to found businesses like Google and the internet real estate firm Zillow, for just two examples of international companies founded by people who attended private elementary or high schools in California.

Meanwhile, the profusion of English learners in California public schools, almost all children of parents who can’t come close to affording private school tuition, drags California scores down. These are not dumb kids, but studies have shown repeatedly that children taking time-limited tests are at a disadvantage if the tests are administered in languages other than what they speak at home.

More than one-third of California kids taking the TIMS-related tests speak a language other than English at home. State Department of Education figures from 2011, the year of the TIMS comparisons: 1,441,387 California public school students were classified as English learners (23.2 percent of all pupils) and 2,325,748 spoke a language other than English at home (37.4 percent of all pupils).

Considering which students are skimmed from the top before California kids even take these tests, while many thousands of others are at a great disadvantage, the California scores don’t look so bad.

Yes, they trail the numbers from Massachusetts, Minnesota, Maryland, Colorado and Connecticut, to name a few high-performing states that score well above the worldwide average, but those places have nowhere near as many English learners as California.

Meanwhile, states with almost as high a percentage of English learners – like Texas – scored below California.

All of which suggests that California public schools are doing some things right – to get a student populace with high proportions of immigrants’ kids who are not up to par in English performing almost at the international average is no mean feat.

At the same time, there’s plenty of work to do: Those English learners must be brought up to speed as quickly as possible so they can compete for jobs when they emerge from school. But none of this suggests an academic doomsday is approaching, as many detractors of public education often imply.

in Opinion
Related Posts

SM.a.r.t Column: The Up Zoning Scam (Part 1)

June 16, 2024

June 16, 2024

Over the last few years, the State of California has mandated a massive upzoning of cities to create capacity for...

SM.a.r.t. Column: Shape Up – On Steroids

June 9, 2024

June 9, 2024

Nine years ago, SMa.r.t wrote a series of articles addressing the adaptive re-use of existing structures. We titled one “Shape...

SM.a.r.t Column: The Challenge of Running a City When City Staff Have Different Priorities

June 2, 2024

June 2, 2024

Living in a city has its perks, but it can be a real headache when the folks running the show...

SM.a.r.t. Column: A Path to Affordable Ownership in Santa Monica

May 27, 2024

May 27, 2024

[Note: our guest author today is Andres Drobny, a former Professor of Economics at the University of London, the former...

SM.a.r.t. Column: A Path Forward for Santa Monica: Part II

May 19, 2024

May 19, 2024

As referenced in Part I of this article, the state’s use of faulty statistics and forceful legislation has left a...

SM.a.r.t. Column: A Path Forward for Santa Monica: Part I

May 12, 2024

May 12, 2024

To quickly summarize, California grapples with an ongoing housing crisis spurred by state implementation of over 100 policies and mandates...

SM.a.r.t. Column: Where Will Our Huddled Masses Sleep? Navigating California’s Affordable Housing Mandates

May 5, 2024

May 5, 2024

Just as Lady Liberty beckons the “huddled masses” of immigrants to America, cities like Santa Monica have an ethical obligation...

SM.a.r.t Column: SMCLC SPEAKS

April 28, 2024

April 28, 2024

SMart (Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow) periodically invites guest columnists who have made a significant contribution to the...

SM.a.r.t Column: Building Modern Boxes Lacks Identity

April 21, 2024

April 21, 2024

In the relentless pursuit of modernity, cities worldwide have witnessed the rise of so-called architectural marvels in the form of...

SM.a.r.t. Column: Santa Monica Needs Responsible Urban and Architectural Design

April 14, 2024

April 14, 2024

[SMa.r.t. note: Eight years ago, our highly esteemed and recently-passed colleague Ron Goldman documented his thoughts on the need for...

SM.a.r.t. Column: BLINK NOW!

April 7, 2024

April 7, 2024

Nine years ago, I wrote a column for SMa.r.t. titled SANTA MONICA: BEACH TOWN OR ‘DINGBAT’ CITY? (https://smdp.com/2015/05/09/santa-monica-beach-town-dingbat-city/)Here is the...

SM.a.r.t Column: ARB Courage (Part 2 of 2)

March 31, 2024

March 31, 2024

Last week we discussed the numerous flaws of the Gelson’s project as a perfect example of what not to do...

ARB Courage (Part 1 of 2)

March 24, 2024

March 24, 2024

On March 4, 2024, your ARB (Architectural Review Board) ruled in favor of the 521-unit Gelson’s Project at Ocean Park...

SM.a.r.t Column: Can California ARBs Balance Affordable Housing with Community Character in the Face of New Housing Laws?

March 17, 2024

March 17, 2024

By suggestion, I attended the March 4th ARB (Architectural Review Board) meeting that addressed the Gelson Lincoln Boulevard Project.  After...

S.M.a.r.t Column: On the Need for Safety

March 10, 2024

March 10, 2024

Earlier this week, in the dark pre-dawn hours, a pair of thugs covered in masks and hoodies burst into the...