ED100 Breakdown: Module 9

Hi everyone! You’re currently reading the 9th module of the ED100 free online guide that covers almost every topic about the CA educational system. This specific module explores the topics surrounding school success, academic success, and higher education. As always I encourage you to click on the link above and read through it yourself, but if you’re tight on time, here are the major takeaways.

As you probably imagined, parents have a lot of confidence that their child in kindergarten will end up succeeding in school. Unfortunately, this is wishful thinking. Even if they can get into high school, only three-quarters of incoming 9th grade students in CA will graduate high school on time. So how can you gauge if your student is on track to be in the “successful student” category. There are three sources to tell if your child is on track or not: teacher conferences, report cards, and standardized tests. Out of these three options, standardized tests, which I’ll talk more about later, provide the most objective feedback on how a student is doing relative to everybody else. It’s crucial that these are not brushed aside.

Additionally, most teachers agree that there are clear academic milestones that a successful student will achieve on their journey through the school system. For example, first grade students should know the alphabet and fourth grade students should be able to solve math questions beyond simple numeracy problems. The issue comes when a student does not reach a particular milestone. What should the parents or school do then? The National Association of School Psychologists recommends to move the student to the next grade level accordingly, but provide additional support specific to that student to correct their academic trajectory. One thing is quite obvious, once a student is enrolled in a course on a less rigorous track, it is incredibly difficult to jump to a higher one. So preventing these milestone misses in the first place should be the overall goal.

Standardized tests for grade school students have changed a number of time over the years. Currently, the CAASPP is used by CA schools to test students’ english and math skills from 3rd through 8th grade and in 11th grade. It is administered online and adapts to the student’s own skill level to reduce the number of questions needed. An increasingly popular trend has been to not focus on standardized tests. However, just because these tests mainly serve as diagnostic indicators to school leaders and teachers, doesn’t mean a child’s score against the national average should be disregarded. In fact, parents should pay more attention to these scores over class grades because they are scaled over a larger population. Standardized testing is also the most reliable way to monitor achievement gaps due to race, socioeconomic status, and gender. I encourage you to check out these images from ED100 that show the CAASPP english achievement gap and the CAASPP math achievement gap.

On the other side of the aisle, critics argue that standardized tests are dull, irrelevant to most students, and “squeeze the soul out of learning and teaching”. They also bring up the point that many classrooms will focus too much on trying to do well on these english and math tests rather than on everything else a student should also be learning such as science, art, and history. I think it’s important to note here that standardized testing is changing to be less time consuming yet still helpful in determining where a student stands among their peers. It also may be a case where the teachers might consider adjusting how much time they spend preparing their students for the CAASPP rather than scrapping standardized testing altogether. Afterall, the CAASPP is intended to be a benchmark, not necessarily carrying with it the same consequences as a pass or fail test.

Much of the statistics and evidence we’ve drawn upon in these blogs have come from collected data. An emerging question has been how well is CA at keeping track of their data systems? In 2019 the Data Quality Campaign reported that there are only two states in America that do not systematically measure growth in individual student learning: Kansas and California. Data systems can support research, shedding light on the effectiveness of educational materials. It can also help us answer questions dealing with school attendance or community feedback. Data can help to identify extraordinary schools, teachers, and programs. But only if the systems are set up to collect and connect. Essentially, we need to seriously change our basic data infrastructure.

Now, let’s quickly discuss some topics centered around college. Out of all 9th graders entering a CA high school, only a small 12% will graduate college with a four-year degree. So yes, higher education is a problem as well. In 1960, the state created a Master Plan for Higher Education, a system that created three systems of public colleges that exist today. All three heavily depend on state funding to subsidize the CA students who attend. In order from biggest to smallest in terms of campuses and enrollment there are the California Community Colleges, Cal State Universities, and University of California Schools. CA also offers adult education courses that provides a second chance to young adults who have not graduated from high school. The basic premise of the state providing these services is because adult education has been shown to help fuel the economy.

California’s college tuition is lower than those in most other states. However, it is still incredibly expensive and acts as a major drawback in families supporting students to attend a college and eventually graduate. Loans are becoming more and more popular. In California, over half of students who graduate from a four-year degree degree program emerge with a debt burden averaging more than $20,000. I know we haven’t touched much on educational issues at the collegiate level but if you’re interested there’s a lot more facts about it towards the end of this module. In the interest of avoiding writing a novel for your sake, I’m going to keep it somewhat short and sweet. As always, please visit the ED100 site to learn more about the summaries that I blog about. Thank you for reading!

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