Mountain View Voice

Opinion - November 28, 2008

Classroom lament

New study shows how tough it is to teach in California

by Barry Groves

Who are the students in an "average classroom" in California?

You may be surprised what an "average classroom" looks like compared to other states, as recently reported in a study entitled "How California Compares" by EdSource, a nonprofit organization based in Mountain View.

So what is it like to teach in an average California classroom? Our teachers have some of the very largest class sizes, the most students who do not speak English in the home, the highest rate of parents with no high school diploma, and teach a student population that is the most ethnically diverse in the country. And they do it with less: Our state spends $614 less per student than the national average.

If we assume a classroom of 26 students, the so-called average California class would be comprised of 12 Latino, eight white, four Asian, and two African-American students. Six students would be part of a family where the head of the household did not graduate from high school. Five students would speak a language other than English at home. Three students would be classified as special education.

California has among the very toughest content standards in the country. Our high school graduation rates are at the national average, our academic achievement scores are near the national average when English Learner scores are excluded, and our SAT scores for college bound students are at the national average. The percent of students taking high school Advanced Placement exams ranks California among the top states in the country. However, only 25 percent of high school graduates matriculate to four-year colleges and universities, below the national average of 38 percent.

California's educational spending ranks around 30th among the states, in an area with one of the highest cost of living indexes. In 2005-06, California ranked 49th in the nation in pupil-teacher and pupil-staff ratios. This means that a California school of 1,000 students would have 48 teachers compared to a national average of 64. That same California school would have 2.2 school site administrators, when the national average is 3.4.

Every day, California's public school educators are performing heroic tasks teaching an incredibly diverse student population with dwindling resources. We are fortunate that our local high schools rate above state average in almost all of these categories. However, if we want to continue to be globally competitive, then we must invest in a public education system that supports our efforts to educate an increasingly diverse and needy population.

Dr. Barry R. Groves is superintendent of the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District.

Comments

Posted by Ned, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 26, 2008 at 3:50 pm

Oh please. This is a problem with immigration not with our schools. We in Mountain View are just going to have to recognize the fact that the schools here are never going to lift themselves out of this mess or graduate all kids proficient in the English langauge and with a real education in other fields. With or without NCLB or more money thrown at the problem, the current farce that that turns a blind eye to illegal immigration will gaurantee that this problem will never go away. Many children of Latino immigrants who have become citizens, will just settle for the limited functional literacy that they receive. Something is always better than nothing.


Posted by Enough!, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 26, 2008 at 5:06 pm

Sounds like more pandering for more money. Let's raise our taxes even more. Who's is going to wrtie the first check?


Posted by Randall Flagg, a resident of North Whisman
on Dec 2, 2008 at 7:16 pm

Asian immigrants don't seem to have any trouble with educating their children. Neither do Indians, Pakistanis, Russians, or any other immigrant group that doesn't speak Spanish. Does speaking Spanish cause brain damage, or is there some kind of crypto-colonial agenda at work here?



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