By Jack O’Connell, California Superintendent of Public Instruction | from California Progress Report
On Friday April 25th, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell met with students, parents, teachers and administrators at the Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies (SOCES). SOCES is the largest magnet school in the Los Angeles Unified School District with 1780 students in grades 4-12.
Later in the day, O'Connell held a news conference at the Synergy Charter Academy to remark on the 25th anniversary of the release of "A Nation at Risk," the landmark 1983 study issued by the National Commission on Excellence in Education. The 1983 report provided a comprehensive overview of the status of American schools - finding that the educational foundations of American society were being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity, leading to widespread reforms at the local, state and federal levels.
[CPR Editor’s note: This is the speech Jack O’Connell delivered, with charts and graphs, on Friday.]
25 years ago, the landmark report, “A Nation at Risk” warned of dire consequences if we failed to expect more from our students and schools.
We responded by implementing a system of accountability to measure and rank schools on annual student achievement gains.
We’ve focused attention on groups of students who face particular challenges…and we’ve seen steady achievement gains.
For example, here, at the Synergy Charter Academy, named a California distinguished school and the California charter school of the year for 2008, we’re seeing significant progress in the test scores of a very diverse student population.
This progress is positive and consistent, but we’re still having trouble educating all children to the very highest level, so on the anniversary of a nation at risk, I’d like to take a look back, and talk about where we are today.
Student population has increased.
This increase put enormous pressure on our schools, in terms of facilities; the rising demand for new teachers; books and supplies; and more.
Back in 1984, our student population was majority white and English speaking:
Now, our latest numbers from 2007 paint a different picture:
The needs of these students have changed dramatically as well.
Let’s now look at our English language learner population.
Let’s also take a look at how California compares to other states when it comes to the percent of children whose parents are not fluent in speaking the English language.
Another measure to consider is family income. One way to account for the number of students living in poverty is to look at students eligible for free and reduced-priced meals.
Also consider that it costs more to provide the high quality instruction needed to prepare the students we have to meet the demands of a challenging global economy…and we’re not investing more in our schools, we’re investing less.
Now let’s take a look at how California compares to other states when it comes to investing in schools.
On top of this, our governor is going to cut our education budget by 10%, or 4.8 billion dollars.
The Governor says we have a spending problem – I say we have a priority problem. If we don’t refocus our priorities on educating the next generations, our state is indeed at risk.