Are California Schools the Worst in the Nation?

Bob Somerby is wondering if it’s really true that California schools used to be the nation’s best and then, after Prop 13 passed in 1978, quickly plummeted to become the nation’s worst. Objectively, that’s all but impossible to measure since we don’t have much in the way of testing statistics to look at before 1978. What we do have are some overall statistics on how schools are managed. For example, here are three key metrics from 1970-2015:

Generally speaking, California got worse compared to the national average on all three metrics between 1970 and 1995. Teacher salaries continued to get worse through 2015, but per-pupil spending and student-teacher ratio stayed flat.

So what did that do to test scores? Between 1970 and 1995, who knows? Between 1995 and 2015 they went up significantly, but so did test scores for the whole country. We need to set the bar a little higher and take a look at California test scores compared to the national average:

What does this tell us? Not a lot, since we’d really like to see how California compared to the national average in 1970, before Prop 13 was passed. However, it does tell us something: over the past 20 years, pretty much every ethnic group in both reading and math has made progress compared to the national average. What’s more, California’s test scores in 2017 ranged from about 98 percent to 101 percent of the national average. That’s not going to win any awards, but it hardly suggests that California schools have collapsed into a dystopian hellscape. Roughly speaking, there’s the usual mix of good ones and bad ones, and overall they’re about average.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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