How are California’s students doing? And are all groups of students receiving the same opportunities for educational success? How do patterns of educational outcomes in California compare to those in other states, and how have they changed in the last decade?
In this study, we seek to provide a portrait of the state of educational outcomes in California. Any effort to improve educational opportunities in the State must begin with a clear-eyed assessment of where and for whom the State’s schools are more or less successful. To do so, we examine data on three key indicators of the performance of the educational system: performance on standardized tests of reading and mathematics, rates of exclusionary discipline such as in- and out-of-school suspensions and expulsions, and high school graduation rates.
Though the individual measures are imperfect, and do not fully capture all outcomes of interest even in combination, each provides an important piece of evidence on an aspect of California’s educational system. Performance on standardized tests is the most comm on way to measure the academic skills that students have acquired through the course of their schooling. Graduation rates complement standardized test measures because they also capture all requirements for graduation, both academic and non-academic. Rates of exclusionary discipline provide a slightly different perspective because they are deeply related to educational opportunity. Students cannot learn and reap the benefits of an education if they are not in the classroom. Triangulating these three measures and perspectives provides a more nuanced view of the educational system than any one measure in isolation.
To give a comprehensive analysis of student outcomes we begin with simple analyses of trends both in California and in the nation as a whole. This provides a starting point for understanding where California stands relative to the nation. Where the data allow, we augment that analysis by investigating how outcomes, in both California and nation, differ by race/ethnicity and the socioeconomic status of the students the district serves.