How California Compares:
Demographics, Resources, and Student Achievement
For good or ill, there is clearly no state that compares with California. And no state will play as large a role in educating America’s future citizens. Seeing the dynamics that affect California’s public schools through a national lens can sharpen our understanding of the challenges our schools face and the progress they are making.
The indicators included in this report provide some answers regarding how California compares with the rest of the country and the four next-largest states—Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois — which are the most likely to face similar challenges. Of equal importance are the issues the data and analyses raise about the young people this state is educating, its commitment to its public schools, and its progress in helping its students succeed.
The following highlights hint at the breadth of information in this report. You can purchase a PDF download of the full-color report or have a printed copy to be mailed to you.
- California has far more K–12 students than any other state.
- Its birth and immigration rates have slowed compared with fast-growing Texas and Florida.
- Its largest ethnic group is Latinos, unlike most states.
- It has the highest percentage of children who live in a family in which the head of household has not completed high school.
- It ranks first by a wide margin in the proportion of children who speak a language other than English at home.
- California spent $614 less per pupil than the national average in 2005–06.
- That year, it ranked in the middle in per-pupil expenditures among the five largest states.
- Its teacher salaries are among the highest even when adjusted for the cost of living.
- It ranks last in total school staff per student.
- After years of low investment, California spent more on school facilities from 2003 to 2006 than any other state.
- California is one of three states that earns an “A” for its academic content standards from the Fordham Foundation.
- It has a higher-than-average proportion of schools not making adequate yearly progress as the state defines it under NCLB.
- Overall, it ranks among the lowest on NAEP (the “nation’s report card”), but its scores are much closer to the U.S. average if English learners’ results are excluded.
- Its high school students are more likely to take advanced placement classes and perform well.
- Its high school graduates are less likely to enroll directly in a four-year university.