SACRAMENTO — California’s tough education standards are a bragging point for many state officials, but the nation’s new education law could force the state to lower the bar or risk falling short of federal requirements.
President Bush’s No Child Left Behind act requires that all students be proficient in math and English in 12 years — a goal that top education officials in California say they won’t be able to meet.
That’s because California has set its sights much higher than most of the nation, requiring students to master advanced math and language skills.
The federal law lets each state set up its own education standards and decide what it means to be “proficient.” States with lower standards will have an easier time reaching the target.
“The problem is our standards are very high and we don’t anticipate we could ever be 100 percent proficient,” said California Secretary of Education Kerry Mazzoni.
Results from the state’s standards-based test show that California still has a long way to go to hitting the 100 percent mark. Only about 10 percent of 11th graders, for example, are proficient in algebra and geometry based on California standards, 30 percent are proficient in U.S. history and 16 percent are proficient in earth sciences.
California and other states that set up tough standards before the federal law was enacted could be forced to lower the standards or risk missing the target, which could ultimately jeopardize federal education funding.
“It’s very unfair to states with high standards,” said T.J. Bucholz, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Education.
Earlier this year, the federal government identified more than 8,000 schools across the country as low performing based on their own state’s education standards. Only Michigan had more schools on that list than California.
“When you see the numbers on the surface, you might think that California and Michigan schools are doing very poorly. They aren’t. We just have incredibly high standards,” Bucholz said.
However, Eugene Hickok, undersecretary in the U.S. Department of Education, said high standards shouldn’t be an excuse for not meeting federal requirements.
“Those who argue that having such high expectations is unrealistic are doing a serious disservice not just to the kids, but to this nation,” Hickok said.