California on track for middling status in annual Quality Counts report card

Education Week has released the second installment of its yearly “Quality Counts 2019: Grading the states” report cards. The project’s aim is to show which states do the best job in preparing students for successful futures in college and career. The measurements are based on a range of family, school and socioeconomic indicators; financial indicators; and achievement indicators. The project is released in three parts:

  • The first installment is based on Education Week’s “Chance-for-Success Index,” which surveys a range of social and educational conditions that affect a person’s future outcomes.
  • The second report examines school finance and the role funding equity plays in educational quality.
  • The last installment, due for release in September, examines the K-12 Achievement Index, which consists of 18 district achievement measures related to reading and math performance, high school graduation rates and the results of Advanced Placement exams.

The three measures are combined at the end of the year and each state receives a final grade. So how is California doing in the first two measures?

Chance for Success

The index evaluates each state using a range of measures, including:

  • How educated are parents?
  • What share of 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in preschool?
  • Are K-12 students proficient in reading and math?
  • What’s the high school graduation rate?
  • What percentage of adults have steady employment?

California earns a C in the Chance-for-Success category and ranks 36th. The average state earns a C-plus.

While the overall score is just under the average, breaking down the categories further reveals a dismal beginning for the state’s youngest learners. The index ranks California 49th for the early foundations category, which measures the supports a child receives before starting formal schooling, including family income, parental education levels and parents’ English proficiency. California earns a C, while the state average is a B.

School Finance

California ranks almost exactly in the middle at 24th in the nation with a C letter grade, the average for all states. This analysis measures both school spending patterns and equity in the distribution of funds. The spending metric focuses on factors such as:

  • What does the state spend per-pupil when adjusted for regional cost differences?
  • What percent of students are in districts with per-pupil spending at or above the U.S. average?
  • What share of total taxable resources are spent on education?

Across the spending indicators, California finishes with an F, compared with a national average of a D, and ranks 27th in the nation in this area. However, compared to last year’s report, when California ranked 35th, the state is making improvements.

Topics covered by the equity analysis include:

  • To what degree does funding for property-poor districts differ from that of their wealthier counterparts?
  • How different are the spending levels of the highest- and lowest-spending districts?

On the equity measures, California receives a B-plus and is 18th in the national rankings. The nation average is also a B-plus.

CSBA will update the last category and California’s final 2019 grade in September.