California: Education Update and Results

Enrollment California 2015 - 2016

California is the largest state in the country and therefore it has the largest public school system with 6,226,737 students (based on enrollment in the 2015 - 2016 school year).  The number of students, as broken down into ethnic distribution, was somewhat surprising as only about 5.81% of California’s public school students are African American.  (About 3.09% of the students are reported as being of two or more races—192,146).

Over half are Hispanic or Latino, 24.1% are white and about 9% are Asian, etc.


In 2014, California established its current system of assessments, CAASPP.  The California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) conducts summative assessments in English language arts/literacy and mathematics using the Smarter Balance Assessment System based on the Common Core State Standards.  

These tests are given in grades 3 - 8 and in grade 11.

There are also assessments in science, alternative assessments for English language arts/literacy and mathematics (as needed) and tests in Spanish for reading/language arts.


The results for English language arts/literacy and mathematics are distributed into four categories:

  • Standard Not Met: Level 1
  • Standard Nearly Met: Level 2
  • Standard Met: Level 3
  • Standard Exceeded: Level 4

In English Language Arts/Literacy (for 2016) 52% of the overall students scored in the "Standard Not Met" or "Standard Nearly Met" categories, while 49% met or exceeded standards.

English Language Arts California 2016
California Mathematics 2016

In mathematics, 63% overall, did not meet or nearly met standards, while 37% met or exceeded standards.

Graduation Rates

California’s graduation rates have climbed for six years in a row and the most recent data from 2015 is an all-time high for the state of 82.3% (up from 74.7% for the class of 2010).  

English Learners and migrant students showed the biggest increases from 2013 - 2014 to 2014 - 2015 (4.0 and 4.4%, respectively).  These trends should be celebrated! 

California Graduation Rates 2015

I do, however, have to ask,

"Why are about 30% of the African-American students in California's public schools not graduating on time?" 

Students in the Migrant Education program (who have to face unfair challenges as they move about and work) have a higher graduation rate than African-American students in California.  Even students categorized as "Socioeconomically Disadvantaged" had a 75.6% graduation rate in 2013 - 2014 and a 77.7% graduation rate in 2014 -2015.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

Golden Gate Bridge Red and Black Ink, LLC

California has begun its initial stages of development for its required State Plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act, but it does not intend to submit its plan for approval to the Department of Education until September 18, 2017.  

This gives the public, and maybe you, time to provide input.  This also means that the next school year (2017 - 2018) will still be a bit of a transition year, as the Department of Education can take up to 120 days to approve a state’s plan and it is unclear how this new administration will implement its role under the new law.

Stay tuned for more updates on California.


Copyright, 2017, Red and Black Ink, LLC.

Fingertip Facts on Education in California—CalEdFacts. California Department of Education.  Accessed February 6, 2017.

“State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Reports New Record High School Graduation Rate and Sixth Consecutive Year of an Increase.”  California Department of Education, News Release, May 17, 2016.  Accessed February 6, 2017.

Test Results for English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics. California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress.  California Department of Education. Accessed February 5, 2017.