Press Release

Dr. Christopher J. Nellum, Deputy Director of The Education Trust–West, today issued the following statement in response to the release of 2019 results of the California Science Test 

The first-ever release of the California Science Test (CAST) results provide a baseline understanding of what’s going on inside our science classrooms by assessing students in grades 5, 8, and 10-12. Today’s results confirm the trends we continue to see in other assessment data — that our education systems are failing to support African American, Latinx, English learners, and low-income students to meet California’s Science standards. California is a state where innovation is in our DNA and where the tech industry was born. These CAST results do not reflect the promise we must uphold to accelerate academic progress for all students, especially students of color and low-income students. 

Today’s results show that less than 1 in 5 African American, Latinx, and low-income students are meeting standards in science compared to 30% of all students and 44% of White students. Alarmingly, just 3 percent of English learners are meeting standards, with even lower results in grades 8 through 12. We know these results are not a reflection of student ability; rather, they are a reflection of systems and practices that continue to fail students.  

Policymakers must address the systemic failures that get in the way of educational justice. To get to the root of the problem, policymakers must look at the inequities in access to STEM courses and commit to closing those gaps guided by evidence and with urgency. Equity-focused best practices must be centered to drive academic progress and access to high-quality STEM courses for students. Under-resourced schools, which tend to serve more students of color, have dramatically less access to highly qualified STEM teachers and crucial coursework such as calculus or computer science. California needs a plan to prepare, recruit, and retain many more STEM teachers — especially women and teachers of color. Additionally, school and district leaders should commit to providing robust professional learning opportunities to current and future educators and ensure effective and equitable standards implementation. 

There are new initiatives being proposed that aim to address systemic failures, including: 

  • Governor Newsom’s recent $900 million budget proposal to invest in teacher training and funding for staffing high-need subject areas in high-need communities
  • Proposition 13 on the March ballot to provide $15 billion for modernizing and making safety improvements to buildings, and for new construction
  • The Schools and Communities First Initiative on the November ballot that will provide additional revenue to education by requiring large businesses to pay property taxes at market rate, while maintaining Prop 13 property tax protections for homeowners and small businesses. 

These proposals, if passed, will begin to chip away at this decades-old systemic issue, and we look forward to working with policymakers, stakeholders, and advocates to move the needle toward educational justice in our state.