Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
October 29, 2015

  • State is in bottom tier of states in academic tests
  • Education establishment has excuses for failure
  • Underlying issue is using test results to grade teachers

The latest national academic tests tell us again that California’s public schools aren’t doing a very good job of educating more than 6 million youngsters.

Once again, California finds itself in the bottom tier, with New Mexico and Alabama, in the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests of fourth- and eighth-graders in math and English.

But if our schools aren’t performing particularly well, those who run the schools are again demonstrating their unmatched ability to make excuses for failure.

In the past, their rationales have included inadequate financing and having to contend with a student population heavily weighted toward poor and English-learner students.

But as this year’s results demonstrated anew, those excuses collide with the fact that states with similar demographic profiles and even lower levels of spending, such as Texas, surpass California in NAEP test scores.

A new excuse emerged this week as the scores were released. Bill Ainsworth, a spokesman for state schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson, pointed out that the NAEP test standards are not completely aligned with the Common Core standards that California has embraced.

“Consequently, we do not believe they are a good measure of California students,” Ainsworth wrote in an email.

That seems to have a certain validity. But we should remember that when the first round of state tests aligned with Common Core standards were released a few weeks ago, they showed relatively low levels of achievement as well.

To read expanded column, click here.