Saturday, March 12, 2011

California outranks only Mississippi in science

Congratulations, At Least You Aren't Last

February 22, 2011
by Allen Hemphill
Voice of San Diego

Congratulations to California education for ranking higher than Mississippi in science knowledge at the 4th and 8th grade! The bad news is that Mississippi is the only state where California ranked higher.

Almost every year, the US Department of Education issues the National Report Card on one or two subjects. This recent ranking was the result of testing 150,000 students in each of two grades, 4th and 8th. (Since a Gallup Poll seldom polls more than 1,500 people to be statistically relevant, 300,000 students is a really good testing sample.)

Last year the reported subjects covered were math and writing, and California stood higher than several states, but still finished only 46, 47 and 48, depending on subject and grade.

The new federal report on science knowledge includes a statistical breakdown of states in addition to their standing. For each state there is a breakdown by free lunches, disabilities, ethnicity, English learners and several other categories. Twelfth graders were added this year, but they were underrepresented in the testing (only 11,000 or so), and there was no breakdown by state.

There are several problems here: the results in science, the trend results and the lack of reporting on the subject. Looking at results back a decade shows similar results in different subjects and almost no reporting on the subject in California, although newspapers do usually carry an Associated Press release annually on the aggregate national scores.

Unfortunately, because California media generally ignores the dismal California results, California parents, teachers, and administrators do not face questioning about the obvious: demonstrated failure of the California education system.

Allen Hemphill lives in Escondido.

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