Hey everyone! I’ve recently been reading through a self-paced, online course regarding everything that has to do with California’s education system, ED100. I highly recommend taking the time to go through the ten-module, easy to read course yourself; but if you can’t, my next few blogs will be a series of ED100 breakdowns that highlight key points from each of the ten modules. So without further ado, here’s the breakdown of Lesson 1: “Education is…”.
As expected, California has countless students, schools, teachers, and not to mention a giant economy. One in every five students live in poverty and a tenth have special learning needs. One clear theme of ED100 is that for the education system to work for all students, it must work for each student, including the disadvantaged. Many of these underprivileged kids get left behind before they even get into high school because the proper resources aren’t available to them. In fact, CA students living in poverty score significantly lower than the state average.
A very interesting point is brought up, that CA doesn’t have an “independent watchdog” for spotting flaws in the public school system. In fact, problem recognition and changes are mainly brought about from local overseers (parents, community members, etc.) in order to keep the education system accountable.
So how does CA match up against other states? This may come as a surprise, but CA students’ averages are very low when compared to states with students leading in reading and math scores. Year after year CA scores below the average on national tests administered to students in grade school. Some argue that the students will simply “catch up” by the time they enter high school, but research shows that if you can’t perform at a 3rd grade reading level by 3rd grade, you’re at a serious risk of not even graduating high school. Others argue that the low scores are due to students living in poverty or with special learning needs. However, even if demographics were the main culprit, would that make the situation any less important to amend?
On a national scale, American students score about average on reading and below average for math. Some important key facts can be learned from the countries that consistently score in the top 25 percent (mostly in Asia). These include:
Having a clear strategy to improve performance and equity
Rigorous and consistent standards across all classrooms
High quality teachers and school leaders
Distribute funding to schools that need it most
In addition to the higher test scores, these countries are educating way more students than we are despite us having a few “prestigious” universities.
So what about the costs of education failure? When a black male graduates rather than drops out of high school the taxpayer saves $350,000 according to a study by RAND. If the disconnected youth (ages 16-24), those neither in school or working, could be “reconnected” to society, then America’s economy would expand on the order of $5 trillion in taxes paid and costs avoided. This is supported by the study that estimated a $7 return for every $1 invested in early education. In addition, the cost of a year in prison to the taxpayer is seven times that of providing them an education.
The last main point that I want to bring up is this sort of paradox that many parents and teachers inadvertently yield themselves to. Most parents believe the public school system is flawed, but they also believe the school there child goes to is just fine. A new survey showed that these expectation go unmet; across all racial groups the percentage of parents saying it is crucial for their child to get a college degree is significantly higher than the percentage of children actually getting the degree. What this basically boils down to is optimism bias, which is the tendency for people to believe they are at less of a risk than others. Clearly this is a roadblock to refurbishing the CA education system.
Thanks for reading this far. I know a lot of this can seem to be on too large of a scale for us to even make a difference, but I believe that simply knowing the facts is the best way to start. Be sure to check back here for more ED100 breakdowns and information on what our team has been up to!