LOS ANGELES – The second-largest school district in the country is suffering from academic afflictions of its own making. While test scores show a continuing decline at the high school level in math proficiency (21 percent) and reading (51 percent), is the district making improvement in these subjects a top priority? Apparently not.
Instead they are emphasizing a week-long celebration of “National Coming Out Day.” The “curriculum” is intended to teach children about identity and intersectionality. Celebrities are a major part of what many believe is the indoctrination process. Stars don’t have to worry about making a living. How this will improve the eventual job prospects for graduates, however, no one is saying, because it doesn’t.
LA schools are increasingly passing students who don’t even meet grade-level standards. This is and will have important ramifications for their future. Nearly 60 percent of students come from low-income families. It’s hard to argue that the imposition of this woke curriculum will improve their lives.
The problem exists beyond Los Angeles. A report in City Journal adds weight to the problematic prospects of so many students: “California now leads the country in illiteracy.” According to the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress, “just 30 percent of California eighth-graders are proficient in reading,” results that were gathered before the Covid-19 lockdown.
Not surprisingly, public school enrollment is in decline. Quoting a poll from UC-Berkely’s Institute of Government Studies, City Journal writes “just 35 percent of state voters gave public schools in their local district a grade of A or B, down from 55 percent in 2011. Twenty-five percent graded their local public schools a D or F, which was up 15 percentage points from 2011.
As always with such numbers, poor and minority students are disproportionately affected, but the dominant Democratic Party in California appears not to care. Like other states they are in the grip of the teacher’s unions, who supply campaign contributions to keep them in office and continue voting in ways that serve their interests and not the interests of children.
The answer is school choice, but California offers neither school vouchers nor individual or corporate tax credits for parents who wish to send their children to private schools. In the current school year, there are 3,818 private schools serving 657,596 students statewide, compared to 10,374 public schools, serving 5,875,325 students. Ten percent of all K-12 students in California are educated in private schools, which matches the national average. Arguably there would be more if taxpayer money followed the students to private schools.
It’s not just the failure to teach reading and an emphasis on non-academic and radical cultural subjects that have contributed to education decline here and around the country. According to The Heritage Foundation, an emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion is also having a negative impact. A Heritage study found “As of August 2023, 48 percent of school districts with enrollment of at least 15,000 students had a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO), up from the 2021 figure of 39 percent. Having a CDO was associated with much greater learning loss during the pandemic by Black and Hispanic students. School districts with CDOs were significantly more likely to have policies that keep the ‘gender transitioning’ of students secret from parents.”
School choice is spreading throughout the country, in part in reaction to this craziness. Given the left’s dominance in the state, California may be the last place to offer it. That could be a contributing factor to the decision by increasing numbers of parents to leave the state in search of better schools that teach subjects they had to learn during their school days.