Despite Negative Media Coverage, California’s Academic Achievement Is Rising

Former California Secretary of Education Glen Thomas at Biola UniversityFormer California Secretary of Education Glen Thomas gave the keynote address last week at an education symposium hosted by the Biola University School of Education. Thomas identified budget cuts, legislative hurdles, lack of parent involvement and negative media coverage as the top four challenges faced by the educational system today.

Thomas, a Biola alum, said that some of the negative comparisons of the U.S. school system to other first-world countries may not be altogether accurate. He explained how some statistics showing the U.S. lagging behind other countries in reading and writing skills did not make for an accurate comparison, because many of the tests conducted in other countries use data from just one region, rather than reflecting the entire population.

Although the press has frequently targeted bad teachers in the past year or so, these stories do not always represent the overall character of America’s schools. California’s academic achievement has been steadily progressing. Math and language arts test scores have improved over the past 12 years. “We have doubled the number of African American students in Advanced Placement classes, [and] the Hispanic population continues to go up in achievement, particularly in elementary,” said Thomas, though he further argued that educators should not be complaisant in the light of these statistics. “We have a lot of heavy lifting to do and a lot more work, but it is not as if we are failing.”

Thomas made a case for greater parent involvement, arguing that parents should be encouraged to reinforce what students learn in school, particularity by helping them with homework assignments. Teachers should also be encouraged to communicate more with their students’ parents and guardians.

Image courtesy of Biola University.

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