State Reading Scores Remain Dismal
June 20, 2003
Duke Helfand, LA Times

California ranks 39th out of 42 states participating in the "Nation's Report Card." Educators cite the influx of children who don't speak English well.

Despite billions of dollars spent to improve California's public schools, the average reading scores of fourth and eighth graders barely budged over the last decade, leaving the state near the bottom of national rankings, according to a federal study released today.

Only 21% of fourth graders and 20% of eighth graders were proficient in reading last year, mirroring figures from 1992, according to the state-by-state report issued by the U.S. Department of Education.

California ranked 39th out of 42 states that participated in the study of reading achievement, known as the "Nation's Report Card."

State education officials chalked up the dismal showing in part to the dramatic growth in the number of California students who do not speak English well.

Those students made up nearly one-quarter of state test-takers on the national exam last year a much higher percentage than in any other state. California also excluded far fewer special education students than other states.

State education leaders warned against putting too much stock in the scores, saying the state's own testing system offers more refined information on individual students and schools.

"It's really important that we not look at these results as the only indicator of how California is doing," said Kerry Mazzoni, the state's secretary for education. "Do we have a long way to go? Yes. Are we focused and doing some things correctly? Yes."