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California Pupils Found Below Average in Time Spent in School

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Sacramento--A typical California student, on graduating from high school, has received one and one-third fewer years of instructional time than the average U.S. student, according to a new state study.

The research by the California Department of Education reinforced previous findings about the cumulative effect of California's shorter class day and school year.

"Relative to the nation, the instructional days in California are especially short in the primary grades (K-3)," the study said. "By the end of grade 3, California students have been offered one-half-year less schooling than students nationwide. The yearly discrepancies in later grades are somewhat smaller, but they consistently increase the cumulative shortfall."

The study analyzed the extent to which California, New York, and the nation as a whole are meeting high-school graduation requirements proposed by the National Commission on Excellence in Education in last year's report, "A Nation at Risk." The commission recommended that all high-school students take four years of English and three years each of math, science, and social studies.

The study was contained in a 203-page report to the state board of education on the results of statewide achievement testing in grades 3, 6, and 12 during the 1982-83 year.

Gov. George Deukmejian has proposed spending $257 million during the fiscal year that begins July 1 to provide financial incentives for school districts to extend their school year to 180 days from the present state minimum requirement of 175 days and to lengthen their class day.

The proposal originally was made in California's 1983 school finance-reform law, but the Governor vetoed funding for the current fiscal year.

Short of National Average

Even if the law's standards for yearly minutes of instruction are adopted, California will still fall short of the current national end-of-high-school average by one-fourth of a year, according to the state study.

In a separate study contained in the report to the state board, department researchers found that more California high-school students are taking rigorous academic classes than in previous years, but that the average California high-school senior still has taken fewer mathematics courses and "substantially" fewer science courses than the average senior nationwide.

"When California students are compared with students from New York, a state with a strong tradition of high standards for high-school graduation and college entrance, the differences are profound," the document stated.

The research report said the 1983 comparison of coursework in core subjects "looks more favorable in California than it has in previous years."

About 91 percent of California's college-bound seniors took four or more years of English, up from 67 percent in 1976. About 55 percent of the college-bound seniors completed four or more years of math, compared with 36 percent in 1976.

The gains have been smaller in science, with the percentage of college-bound seniors who took two or more years of science increasing from 40 percent to 43 percent. Nationally, 61 percent of college-bound seniors take at least two years of science, according to statistics in the report.

While only five percent of California seniors met the recommended standards in 1982, the total for New York was 29 percent. Nationwide, it was 13 percent, the report said.

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