Press Release

OAKLAND, CA (March 24, 2010) The 2009 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) reading assessment reveals that the performance of California’s fourth and eighth-grade students has failed to improve since 2007. Once again, in overall performance, California places near the bottom.

“Our state leaders insist that we have some of the highest standards in the nation,” said Arun Ramanathan, executive director of The Education Trust—West.  “What good are high standards if we fail to ensure that our students can master them?”

In fourth and eighth-grade reading, California outperforms only Washington DC. California’s performance is statistically similar to seven states and lower than 43 other states/jurisdictions.

What’s more, achievement gaps between students of color and their white peers remain unchanged. In fourth-grade reading, the gaps between African-American and Latino students have remained unchanged since 1992 and in eighth-grade reading, gaps between those subgroups has remained stagnant since 1998.

“California’s performance on the NAEP is characterized by pervasive achievement gaps and persistently low-performance,” continued Ramanathan. “These scores should encourage state leaders to ensure that all students, especially students of color, English Learners and students in poverty are provided with high-quality reading instruction. The second round of the Race to the Top presents state leaders with the opportunity to pass the types of education reforms called for by the Obama administration that would ensure all students have the literacy skills needed to succeed in school and be prepared for college and career.”

In particular, California should learn from states such as Florida and Colorado – both first round Race to the Top finalists that outperformed California on the NAEP. Instead of complaining about the difficulty of educating their state’s diverse student population, Florida policymakers drafted an innovative Race to the Top application containing aggressive changes to education policies, particularly in the area of teacher and principal quality.

“California has no shortage of plans to improve student achievement and eliminate reading achievement gaps,” concluded Ramanathan.  “What it has lacked is the will to implement them and to focus on student needs instead of ideological conflicts and adult interests.”