08/11/2020

California’s school ‘achievement gap’ proves persistent

Generally, California’s six million K-12 students are not doing very well academically, as comparisons with pupils in other states on standardized federal tests have shown, and that’s particularly true of poor and English-learner students.

The study’s findings were underscored last week by the release of the state’s latest “Smarter Balanced” test results. Once again, they told us that the “achievement gap” continues and, as CALmatters education writer Ricardo Cano pointed out, progress is so slow that it could take a generation or more to close the gap.

The gap persists even though California’s per-pupil spending has been increased by 50 percent during Gov. Jerry Brown’s second governorship and much of that new money has been designated for helping “at-risk” poor and English-learner students.

The “Getting Down to Facts” project, which involved dozens of academic researchers with oversight from Stanford University, recommended that to close the gap and reach the state’s academic achievement goals, Californians should raise spending on schools by another 32 percent or about $22 billion a year in current dollars.

It’s a questionable premise since nationwide academic tests show virtually no correlation between the level of spending and achievement. But valid or not, it would be politically impossible to raise taxes by that much.

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