“California’s current direction in education is not moving us forward” says Ryan J. Smith


Ryan J. Smith, Executive Director of The Education Trust-West, issued the following statement in response to the release of California’s statewide Smarter Balanced assessment scores:

“California’s current direction in education is not moving us forward”

says Ryan J. Smith, Executive Director of The Education Trust–West

“Today, California’s Department of Education released new state test results, providing a snapshot of how schools and districts are doing. This marked the third year of the Smarter Balanced assessments and the seventh year since the state adopted the Common Core standards. Across the board, improvement has slowed – in some places to a trickle. Fewer than half of all students met standards in English language arts – and in fifth grade English language arts, scores even declined. Math scores show minimal improvement over last year, but progress has slowed and achievement gaps across ethnic groups persist. Three-fourths of Latino students are not meeting standards in math, and more than two-thirds of African American students are not meeting standards in ELA or math. Even more troublingly, gaps for English learners appear to be widening in both math and English language arts.

California’s current direction in education is not moving us forward. We have made little progress in raising student achievement, and we have coupled this with a murky accountability plan with few assurances for safeguarding students of color and low-income students and a dashboard that takes a degree in analytics to decipher. For a state that often claims the mantle of innovation, we are currently far from it in education.
California started down the right path when it adopted the Common Core standards and moved to the Local Control Funding Formula – these were the right policy decisions. The Smarter Balanced assessments are more rigorous because they measure the types of high-level skills students need to be ready for college or a rewarding career. But in passing these policies, our state made a promise to students and families that we have not yet realized. We set high standards and offered local communities more freedom and flexibility. Unfortunately, we’ve made the wrong turn by not providing the deep, ongoing supports that are needed to shift practices at the ground level.

Indeed, there are some schools where educators are swiftly improving outcomes for historically underserved students. Nine out of ten students are Latino and/or low income at Eisenhower Elementary School in Garden Grove Unified, and the school has nearly doubled the percentage of these students who are meeting standards in math and ELA since 2014. At Vang Pao Elementary in Fresno Unified, where nearly all students are from low-income families, progress in both math and ELA continues to significantly outpace the state average. Too often we hear from our state leaders about the barriers that prohibit closing gaps. These schools dispel those myths and instead tell us that the barriers to closing gaps are more about choices than circumstances.

We should respond to these results with a sense of urgency. California also needs to recommit to equity not only in policy but in practice. Ed Trust–West stands ready to work with state and local leaders to do everything necessary to close these gaps once and for all.”

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Karla Fernandez

Communications Manager

Karla Fernandez (she/her/hers) joins Ed Trust–West as a Communications Manager with over 11 years of experience advancing social impact initiatives.

Karla started her career as a teacher at Chicago Public Schools and UIC College Prep. After teaching, Karla joined United Friends of the Children to support LA County’s youth in foster care as a college counselor. Through Leadership for Educational Equity, Karla also served as a Policy Advisor Fellow for the office of a Los Angeles Unified School Board Member. She solidified her interests in policy analysis and quantitative research during her time with the Price Center for Social Innovation, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, and the USC Presidential Working Group on Sustainability. Before joining The Education Trust–West, Karla was the Associate Director for the Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) Collaborative, a network of nonprofits advocating for communities in SELA.

Karla holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, a Master of Public Policy from the USC Price School of Public Policy, and a Graduate Certificate in Policy Advocacy from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Karla is based out of southern California and is passionate about using data analysis, communications, and digital strategies for policy advocacy and social justice efforts.