August 18 2014
Vicki E. Alger
Recently the California State Legislature passed a new law (AB 1912) requiring the Instructional Quality Commission, which helps oversee the state’s Common Core standards, to consider revising the social studies framework to include a section on the significance of President Obama’s election in the context of voter discrimination. Co-sponsor Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) explained that it’s important for students to learn about “overcoming our nation's past to elect our first black president.”
If elected officials in California really wanted to overcome the past, they’d give students of all backgrounds better education options today. Consider grade four reading proficiency. Researchers pay particular attention to student proficiency in this subject because if students cannot read well by this point they will continue falling farther and farther behind in this and other core subjects.
According to the latest data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, just 53 percent of California White, non-poor fourth graders (those not eligible for federal free or reduced-price lunches) scored proficient or better in reading. That figure drops to 31 percent among non-poor Hispanic fourth graders, and plummets to a shocking 14 percent among non-poor African-American fourth graders —just one percentage point higher than their peers who are from impoverished families.
Thus large majorities of California students are not proficient in elementary reading in spite of spending well over $10,000 per student.
If California lawmakers were serious about helping students overcome the past, then today they’d enact statewide parental choice programs that empower parents to choose the public, private, virtual, or home school of their choice. More options—not more mandates—are what California students and families really need.