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Student Proficiency

Variable Definitions:
Proficiency in English: The percentage of  students who received a score of “Met Standards” or “Exceeded Standards” on the English Language Arts portion of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP)

Proficiency in Math: The percentage of students who received a score of “Met Standards” or “Exceeded Standards” on the Mathematics portion of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP)
Proficiency for English and Math is reported at the following levels:
  • Elementary School (3rd, 4th, and 5th grade)
  • Middle School (6th, 7th, and 8th grade)
  • High School (11th grade)

Methodology Note: 

The original data comes at the school level. Our team geocoded the school locations to generate X/Y coordinates, then spatial joined each point to 2020 Census Tracts.

California Department of Education (CDE) Ed-Data/Data Quest

Years Available*:
2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022, 2023

*The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in statewide physical school closures in February/March 2020 followed by the widespread implementation of distance learning during the 2020–21 academic year. The California Department of Education (CDE) recommends caution when comparing discipline data across academic years. For this dataset, data for 2020 is unavailable due to school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data for 2021 is available, but incomplete. 

Why are these variables important to measure?

The Common Core State Standard (CCSS) is a national educational initiative that was introduced in 2009 to replace the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program, which became inoperative on July 1, 2013. CCSS was designed to ensure education would be consistent across all states, with a focus on student outcomes. The California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) was adopted in 2014 to assess how students are performing with respect to the Common Core State Standard (CCSS).  Administered by computer, the CAASPP are divided into 2 parts: Math and English. English proficiency at the 3rd grade level means to progress towards mastery of the knowledge and skills in English language arts/literacy needed for likely success in future coursework. Math proficiency at the 7th grade level is defined as demonstrated progress towards mastery of the knowledge and skills in mathematics needed for likely success in entry-level, credit-bearing college coursework after high school.

Although standardized test scores have often been criticized as a flawed measure of educational achievement and future potential, they are still widely used as a tool to track school and academic performance. CCSS sets high expectations for students, those of which are dependent on a given instructor’s curriculum. Educators in California have criticized CCSS for failing to prepare and train them to teach Common Core. In 2019, the majority of English and Math teachers were only provided between 9-32 hours of training to teach under this model. Additionally, thirty percent of instructors have also not yet updated their curricula and instructional material to align with the standards. Instructors in rural districts are even less likely to implement the standards, mainly due to less access to resources and challenges in providing professional development opportunities. 

Standardized testing both highlights and exacerbates racial disparities in educational outcomes. Black and Latino students are notably far behind white and Asian American students in meeting California’s English and math standards. California has some of the highest racial segregation in schools; 58% of Latinos attend severely segregated schools, and more than half of the state’s Black students are concentrated into 25 of the state’s 1,000 school districts. Racial segregation condenses historically marginalized students in high-poverty schools, which greatly impacts academic achievement and access to resources. Underserved schools in urban districts were significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with 84% of Black students and 79% of Latino and low-income students not meeting California’s math standards in 2022. Policies and programs that assist the state’s most disadvantaged students in meeting math and English standards are vital to prepare them for postsecondary success. 
Written by Gabby Magaña


CAASPP Description – CalEdFacts (CA Dept of Education). (2021, November 19). California Department of Education. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ai/cefcaaspp.asp

California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress Office. (2021, August 23). Reporting Achievement Level Descriptors – California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) System (CA Dept of Education). California Department of Education. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ca/sbachievedescript.asp

CCSS for ELA – Content Standards (CA Dept of Education). (2013, March 13). California Department of Education. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from https://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/documents/finalelaccssstandards.pdf

Public Policy Institute of California, Gao, N., & Lafortune, J. (2019, September 1). Common Core State Standards in California: Evaluating Local Implementation and Student Outcomes. Public Policy Institute of California. Retrieved December 13, 2022, from https://www.ppic.org/wp-content/uploads/common-core-state-standards-in-california-evaluating-local-implementation-and-student-outcomes.pdf 

Cano, R., & Hong, J. (2020). Mind the achievement gap: California’s disparities in education, explained. Cal Matters. https://calmatters.org/explainers/achievement-gap-california-explainer-schools-education-disparities-explained/

Esquivel, P., & Blume, H. (2022, October 24). California test scores show deep pandemic drops; 2 in 3 students don’t meet math standards. Los Angeles Timeshttps://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-10-24/california-test-scores-pandemic-drops

Orfield, G., Frankenberg, E., Ee, J., & Ayscue, J.B. (2019, May 10). Harming Our Common Future: America’s Segregated Schools 65 Years After Brown. The Civil Rights Project. https://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/k-12-education/integration-and-diversity/harming-our-common-future-americas-segregated-schools-65-years-after-brown

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