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- Definition: Percentage of public school students in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 11 scoring in the standard met or standard exceeded achievement level on the CAASPP Smarter Balanced Summative Assessment for English language arts/literacy (ELA), by fluency in English (e.g., in 2021, 11.3% of English Learners in California met or exceeded their grade-level standard in ELA).
- Data Source: California Dept. of Education, Test Results for California's Assessments (Feb. 2022).
- Footnote: Years presented are the final year of a school year (e.g., 2020-21 is shown as 2021). 'English only' students are those for whom English is their primary or only language. 'Fluent-English proficient' students have a primary language other than English but have the English language skills to succeed in regular instructional programs. 'English Learners' are students who have a primary language other than English and who lack the clearly defined English language skills of listening comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing necessary to succeed in regular instructional programs. Visit the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) website for detailed information about the CAASPP system and explanations of the achievement levels. Assessments were not administered in 2020. Due to changes in administration, and low and uneven participation in 2021, the Dept. of Education (2020-21 CAASPP and ELPAC Assessment Results) advises against comparing data for 2021—annotated here with an asterisk (*)—with earlier years. The notation S refers to data that have been suppressed because there were fewer than 20 students in that group. N/A means that data are not available.
- Measures of Reading Proficiency on Kidsdata.org
On kidsdata.org, reading proficiency is measured by the percentage of public school students in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 11 who meet or exceed their grade-level standard on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) Smarter Balanced Summative Assessment for English language arts/literacy (ELA).* These data are available by grade level for counties and school districts, and, for counties only, by English language fluency, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.
- Reading Proficiency
- Student Demographics
- Pupil Support Services
- Housing Affordability and Resources
- School Climate
- Academic Motivation (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- School Connectedness (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- School Supports (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Caring Relationships with Adults at School (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- High Expectations from Adults at School (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Meaningful Participation at School (Student Reported), by Grade Level
- Students Are Motivated to Learn (Staff Reported)
- School Motivates Students to Learn (Staff Reported)
- School Is a Supportive and Inviting Place to Learn (Staff Reported)
- Adults at School Care About Students (Staff Reported)
- Adults at School Believe in Student Success (Staff Reported)
- School Welcomes and Facilitates Parent Involvement (Staff Reported)
- School Attendance and Discipline
- Math Proficiency
- High School Graduation
- College Eligibility
- Why This Topic Is Important
Students proficient in reading are more likely to graduate from high school, go to college, and have better employment and income prospects in adulthood than students with limited reading abilities, who often struggle to keep up across multiple subjects, including math and science (1, 2). Children who are behind in the early grades often stay behind, making high-quality early childhood education experiences critical, particularly for low-income children, who tend to have fewer early learning opportunities and enter kindergarten at a disadvantage compared with higher-income students (1, 2). State and national data show persistent disparities in reading skills by student socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, disability status, and English proficiency (3). In California, student reading scores consistently rank below the national average, even though U.S. and California scores generally have improved since the 1990s (1, 3).For more information on reading proficiency, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.
Sources for this narrative:
1. Reardon, S. F., et al. (2018). A portrait of educational outcomes in California. Getting Down to Facts II. Retrieved from: https://gettingdowntofacts.com/publications/portrait-educational-outcomes-california
2. Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2019). 2019 KIDS COUNT data book: State trends in child well-being. Retrieved from: https://www.aecf.org/resources/2019-kids-count-data-book
3. National Center for Education Statistics. (n.d.). The nation's report card. Retrieved from: https://www.nationsreportcard.gov
- How Children Are Faring
In 2021, 40% of California 3rd graders, 50% of 7th graders, and 59% of 11th graders who took the CAASPP Smarter Balanced Summative Assessment for English language arts/literacy (ELA) met or exceeded their grade-level standard. Overall, fewer than half (49%) of students across all grades tested scored at or above their grade-level ELA standard, with percentages ranging from 29% to 69% across counties and from less than 15% to more than 95% across school districts with data.
Statewide results show wide variation in reading proficiency by English language fluency, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. In 2021, 36% of socioeconomically disadvantaged students in California scored at or above their grade-level standard for ELA, compared with 65% of their non-disadvantaged peers. Among racial and ethnic groups with data, ELA proficiency rates were 60% or higher for Asian, Filipino, white, and multiracial students, and lower than 45% for African American/black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic/Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander groups.
- Policy Implications
Major education policy changes have taken place in California and the U.S. in recent years, such as the state's Local Control Funding Formula, the Common Core State Standards, and the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (1, 2). Education leaders and stakeholders are in the midst of implementing these large-scale changes, which have the potential to reduce long-standing disparities in reading proficiency by race/ethnicity, income level, disability status, and English Learner status (1, 2). Although California reading scores have improved modestly in recent years, they continue to lag behind the nation, and inequities persist (3). Further, while K–12 funding has increased in California, funding levels remain below the national average, and school districts continue to struggle financially (1, 4).
Policymakers and education leaders face significant challenges in improving reading proficiency and educational equity for California's six million K–12 public school students, more than half of whom are socioeconomically disadvantaged (1). Continued efforts and investments are needed to successfully carry out recent reforms, refine them, and ensure equitable opportunities for all students (1).
Policy and practice options that could improve reading proficiency include:
For more information related to reading proficiency and improving public education, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section or visit California Education GPS, EdSource, and the Institute of Education Sciences What Works Clearinghouse. Also see Policy Implications for other education topics in kidsdata.org’s Education & Child Care category.
- Expanding access—particularly among low-income children—to affordable, high-quality preschool or kindergarten readiness programs, which lay the foundation for later achievement (1, 3, 5)
- Ensuring that K–12 reforms are implemented effectively at the local level and that they meet the needs of low-income students, children of color, those with disabilities, English Learners, and other vulnerable students; as part of this, supporting continuous improvement efforts and ensuring that the new Statewide System of School Support can meet districts’ needs (1, 2)
- Creating long-term financial solutions for California's K–12 education system, recognizing that to achieve the state's goals will require better than below-average funding (1, 4, 6)
- Ensuring equitable student access to qualified teachers and rigorous, relevant instructional materials designed for the 21st century and aligned with Common Core Standards (1, 4, 6)
- Addressing California's teacher shortage by continuing to build a skilled and diverse pre-K–12 teaching workforce, reducing barriers to credentialing, and improving the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment for teachers in training (1, 7, 8)
- Ensuring that all instructional leaders, including teachers and principals, have opportunities for professional learning and collaboration related to standards implementation, social-emotional learning, cultural competency, family engagement, and other areas critical to achieving equity (1)
- Continuing to support pre-K–12 schools in creating positive school climates and developing comprehensive, evidence-based systems to address students' physical, emotional, behavioral, and other needs (1, 6)
- Expanding the state's education data system and improving accessibility in order to provide meaningful information to local educators and leaders; also, ensuring that the system effectively tracks the successes and failures of reform efforts (1, 4, 9)
Sources for this narrative:
1. Alliance for Continuous Improvement. (n.d.). California education GPS. Retrieved from: https://www.caledgps.org
2. California Department of Education. (2022). California ESSA consolidated state plan. Retrieved from: https://www.cde.ca.gov/re/es
3. Reardon, S. F., et al. (2018). A portrait of educational outcomes in California. Getting Down to Facts II. Retrieved from: https://gettingdowntofacts.com/publications/portrait-educational-outcomes-california
4. Public Policy Institute of California. (2020). California's future: K-12 education. Retrieved from: https://www.ppic.org/wp-content/uploads/californias-future-k-12-education-january-2020.pdf
5. TKCalifornia. (n.d.). Developmentally appropriate practice: English language arts. Early Edge California. Retrieved from: https://tkcalifornia.org/teachers/english-language-arts
6. Children Now. (2022). 2022 California children's report card: A survey of kids' well-being and roadmap for the future. Retrieved from: https://www.childrennow.org/portfolio-posts/2022-california-childrens-report-card
7. Darling-Hammond, L., et al. (2018). Teacher shortages in California: Status, sources, and potential solutions. Getting Down to Facts II. Retrieved from: https://www.gettingdowntofacts.com/publications/teacher-shortages-california-status-sources-and-potential-solutions
8. Lambert, D. (2019). California considers overhauling test of reading instruction for teachers in training. EdSource. Retrieved from: https://edsource.org/2019/california-considers-overhaul-of-test-assessing-teacher-preparedness-for-reading-instruction/612847
9. Koppich, J. E., et al. (2019). Developing a comprehensive data system to further continuous improvement in California. Policy Analysis for California Education. Retrieved from: https://www.edpolicyinca.org/publications/developing-comprehensive-data-system-further-continuous-improvement-california
- Websites with Related Information
- Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed)
- American Institutes for Research: Reading and Literacy
- California Collaborative for Educational Excellence
- California Collaborative on District Reform. American Institutes for Research.
- California Education GPS. Alliance for Continuous Improvement.
- California School Boards Association: Governance and Policy Resources
- Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning. WestEd.
- Education Commission of the States
- Education Trust–West
- Institute of Education Sciences: What Works Clearinghouse. U.S. Dept. of Education.
- Public Policy Institute of California: K-12 Education
- Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis
- Teaching and Learning: English Language Arts. California Dept. of Education.
- Key Reports and Research
- Achievement in California’s Public Schools: What Do Test Scores Tell Us? (2019). Public Policy Institute of California. Warren, P., & Lafortune, J.
- Attendance in the Early Grades: Why It Matters for Reading. (2014). Attendance Works & Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
- Building Systems of Integrated Student Support: A Policy Brief for Local and State Leaders. (2019). America’s Promise Alliance. Wasser Gish, J.
- Every Student Succeeds Act Primer: Literacy. (2017). Alliance for Excellent Education.
- Getting Down to Facts II. Policy Analysis for California Education.
- Health and Academics. (2019). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- How Family, School, and Community Engagement Can Improve Student Achievement and Influence School Reform. (2017). Nellie Mae Education Foundation. Wood, L., & Bauman, E.
- Latinos and Literacy: Hispanic Students’ Progress in Reading. (2016). Child Trends Hispanic Institute. Ramos, M., & Murphey, D.
- Student Achievement Analysis: Results of the 2018-19 Smarter Balanced Assessments. (2019). Education Trust–West.
- The Essentials of California’s Education System Upgrades. (2018). Alliance for Continuous Improvement.
- Understanding the Common Core State Standards in California. (2017). EdSource. Harrington, T.
- County/Regional Reports
- 2023 California County Scorecard of Children's Well-Being. Children Now.
- Annual Report on the Conditions of Children in Orange County. Orange County Children's Partnership.
- Collaborating for Equity: A Scan of the Los Angeles Educational Ecosystem. (2015). Annenberg Institute for School Reform, Brown University. Potochnik, T., & Romans, A. N.
- Important Facts About Kern’s Children. Kern County Network for Children.
- Live Well San Diego Report Card on Children, Families, and Community. The Children’s Initiative.
- New Measures, Similar Results: Oakland Public Schools and the New State Dashboard. (2018). Oakland Achieves Partnership.
- Orange County Community Indicators Report. Orange County Business Council, et al.
- Pathway to Progress: Indicators of Young Child Well-Being in Los Angeles County. First 5 LA.
- San Mateo County All Together Better. San Mateo County Health.
- Santa Clara County Children's Data Book. Santa Clara County Office of Education, et al.
- Santa Monica Youth Wellbeing Report Card. Santa Monica Cradle to Career.
- Youth Need Data. Get Healthy San Mateo County.
- More Data Sources For Reading Proficiency
- 2023 KIDS COUNT Data Book: State Trends in Child Well-Being. Annie E. Casey Foundation.
- California School Dashboard. California Dept. of Education.
- DataQuest. California Dept. of Education.
- Education Data Partnership (Ed-Data) California Dept. of Education, et al.
- Local Control Funding Formula Reports. California Dept. of Education.
- National Center for Education Statistics: Data and Tools. U.S. Dept. of Education, Institute of Education Sciences.
- Test Results for California's Assessments. California Dept. of Education.
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