The Unique Challenges that Face California Schools

Written by Patricia Hawke for www.schoolsk-12.com

The standards of California schools, once regarded as some of the best in the country have begun to slip in nationwide rankings, not just in comparison to past levels but also in comparison to other states in the country.  To understand the reason for this decline in California schools, it’s necessary to cast an eye on what makes the golden state the richly diverse melting pot it is – its legions of immigrant populations. 
 
California School Districts have a racially and ethnically diverse population; more so than in any other state and the numbers of immigrants keeps growing. This diversity is reflected in California schools.  Many of the California schools have large student populations that originate from linguistic minorities, or from families that are still in the process of learning English.  This fact has led to California schools being high on the national list of schools with limited fluency in the English language.  Add cultural and social differences to the linguistic problem, and it isn’t surprising to find that California schools are beginning to slide down the scale.
 
School Rankings and California Schools
The entire premise of the No Child Left Behind program aims to allow each child the chance at a high quality education.  This is admirable, but it doesn’t take into account the fact that not all the children in the country are the same. This is especially true in California schools with their huge ethnic and linguistic minority students.  Expecting children of varied cultures, and across all linguistic divides, to perform equally well on a standardized test can be a futile exercise. A standardized test doesn’t take into account the vast differences in cultures, family backgrounds, abilities and experiences of children in the California Schools. That’s why it’s doomed to fail as a measure of a student’s or child’s standing in the educational system.
 
Promoting California Schools: Walk the Walk
When it comes to the state of California schools, politicians are more than eager to mouth platitudes that sound great on paper but fizzle when it comes to putting them to action. One particular requirement of No Child Left Behind is mandatory testing of at least 95 per cent of students in a school.  This requirement means little in California schools, where parents have the right to refuse to allow their children to be tested.  What this trickles down to, in effect, is that even good quality schools might not find the required number of students to test, which means a black mark and a possible slide down the public school rankings for a perfectly good institution.  Another provision of the program allows students to leave schools that fail any one the program’s requirements. This sounds great in theory until you realize that it is the California school district that has to foot the bill to transfer these students to other schools, adding to the congestion problem in already overcrowded schools.  When it comes to implementing the No Child Left Behind program, California schools are finding more stumbling blocks than in other states.
 
 
 

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