The report, "Mega-States: an Analysis of Student Performance in the Five Most Heavily Populated States in the Nation," is a National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report card. Decades of data and long-term trends collected in reading, mathematics, and science from the "mega-states" (California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas) provide a wide-ranging portrait of student achievement in the midst of America's shifting demographics.
"While this Mega-States report provides very interesting data and trends, it offers more than numbers and facts," Superintendent Gordon said. "It potentially opens the door for states to learn from each other's successes and share ideas to boost achievement throughout the nation."
The report presents academic performance for students in grades 4 and 8 in reading, mathematics, and science.
Between 1990 and 2011, data show that the education system came to include proportionally more Hispanic students and fewer white students: in 2011, 23% of eighth-grade students nationally were Hispanic, compared to 7% in 1990. California saw an increase of 22 percentage points in its population of Hispanic students (from 30% to 52%). Concurrently, the percentage of white students decreased in all states, most dramatically in California, Illinois, Texas, and Florida.
While the percentage of black students has not changed significantly in the nation or the mega-states, there have been notable achievement gains by black students in California, Florida, and Texas. From 1992 to 2011, average reading scores for fourth-grade black students in California and Florida increased by 28 and 25 points respectively. In California, the achievement gap in mathematics between black and white fourth graders narrowed by 12 points since 1992.
With few exceptions, California has trailed the nation and the other four mega-states at both grade levels in assessments administered over the past 10 years in reading, mathematics, and science. Of the five states, California has the greatest number of schools, spends less than the national average per pupil, has the highest student-to-teacher ratio, and has consistently performed lower than the national average in all subjects.
"I am not proud as I look at my home state's performance in regard to science," Superintendent Gordon said. "Although state support for K-12 education fell by 20 percent over the past four years, California is still the home of Silicon Valley, the hub of our biggest technological companies. Yet California fourth graders scored lower than the nation and all the other mega-states in science in 2009."
Richard Zeiger, Chief Deputy Superintendent for the California Department of Education (CDE), said that a sustained disinvestment in education has contributed to California's educational challenges.
"We invest little more than half per student what New York does, and as a result have about half as many teachers per student as they do," Mr. Zeiger said.
According to reports, there are 2.9 million English learners (EL) in the five states. Among all the states in the nation, California enrolled the largest number of public school EL students—a number that exceeds the total enrollment of all students (EL and non-EL combined) in 41 states and the District of Columbia. The percentages of EL students performing at or above Proficient in fourth-grade reading in the mega-states were not significantly different from their peers nationally.