Wednesday, Children Now released its 2016 California Children’s Report Card that assesses the status of kids’ well-being in 31 key areas, including K-12 education, early learning, health and trauma. The report assigns a letter grade (A though F) on how well the state is meeting California kids’ needs in each area to help state leaders make informed policy decisions and ensure kids are a top priority.
The Report Card indicates that in K-12 education there is still room for improvement - and that policymakers should address these issues as a top priority. Specific grades in education-related areas include:
K-12 funding (C-): Despite the significant recent investments from an improving economy and Proposition 30 revenues, the current funding is far from adequate given the state’s low per pupil spending, which is still well below the national average. To keep our education promise to California kids, the State must commit to a post-proposition revenue strategy and continue to invest in our K-12 system.
Local Control Funding Formula implementation (B-): California should work to make sure schools are leveraging the flexibility created by LCFF by engaging parents, collaborating with their communities and developing accountability plans that best serve their students’ needs. Additionally, the state needs to develop school district performance expectations, an accounting system that allows people to clearly see how LCFF dollars are spent and a way to reach full target funding levels. At the local level, districts must decide how to define objectives and implement reforms in a cost-effective way, to improve education for all their students.
State Standards (B-): California should continue to fully implement Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards to cultivate critical thinking skills and prepare students to be competitive in the global economy, and also work towards updating all other state standards to ensure they emphasize the skills students need to be successful in college, college and civic life.
STEM (C): Despite the importance of STEM education and the positive impact broad exposure to science, technology, engineering and math has on students and their success after high school, many barriers stand between students and the full range of STEM curricula including limited professional development for teachers, inadequate learning materials, and insufficient opportunities for hands-on learning. Not all schools even offer courses critical to STEM.
K-12 outcomes (D): To ensure every kid graduates from high school ready for college, career and civic life California must establish an effective school accountability system. Today, California’s 6.2 million students lag behind nationally on achievement measures; in the most recent assessments, California ranked 46th in 4th grade reading and 42nd in 8th grade math. Eight in ten California students graduate on time, but only 42 percent of graduates complete the minimum entrance requirements for University of California and California State University schools. These figures are even lower for Latino (32 percent) and African American (31 percent) students.
California kids fared better in other areas including placement stability for foster kids (C), preschool (B-) and health insurance (A-). In areas where lawmakers have focused long-term attention and state resources—such as expanding health insurance, including increasing Medi-Cal funding to cover undocumented kids—children saw significant benefits. In areas that have not received the same attention, resources and reforms, like childhood trauma and resilience (D-), oral health (D+) and teacher training and evaluation (D), the state’s kids are getting shortchanged.