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Education

California Earns a C-Minus on State Report Card, Ranks 42nd in Nation

December 30, 2016 3 min read

The 21st annual edition of Quality Counts—Under Construction: Building on ESSA’s K-12 Foundation—continues Education Week’s long-standing tradition of grading the states on their performance. A state’s overall grade is the average of its scores on the three separate indices tracked by the report.

State Overview

This year, California finishes 42nd among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, with an overall score of 69.9 out of 100 points and a grade of C-minus. The nation as a whole posts a grade of C.

Diving into the findings for the three graded indices, California earns a C in the Chance-for-Success category and ranks 41st. The average state earns a C-plus. In School Finance, California receives a D-plus and ranks 39th. For the K-12 Achievement Index, last updated in the 2016 report, it finishes 30th with a grade of D-plus. The average state earns grades of C and C-minus in School Finance and K-12 Achievement, respectively. More details on results in these categories are reported below.

Chance for Success

The Education Week Research Center developed the Chance-for-Success Index to better understand the role that education plays in promoting positive outcomes across an individual’s lifetime. Based on an original state-by-state analysis, this index combines information from 13 indicators that span a person’s life from cradle to career. Those indicators fall into three sub-sections: early foundations, school years, and adult outcomes.

For early foundations, which examines factors that help children get off to a good start, California earns a grade of C and ranks 49th. The average state posts a B-minus.

California receives a C-minus for the school years, a sub-category focusing on metrics related to pre-k enrollment through postsecondary participation. It finishes 33rd in the nation in this area. By comparison, the nation as a whole earns a C.

In the area of adult outcomes, based on postsecondary educational attainment and workforce indicators, California’s grade is a C. It ranks 30th in the nation. The national average is a C-plus.

School Finance

The school finance analysis examines two critical aspects of school spending. Of the eight indicators in this category, four assess school spending patterns, while the remaining metrics gauge equity in the distribution of funding across the districts within each state.

Across the spending indicators, California finishes with a letter grade of F compared with a national average of D. California ranks 43rd in the nation in this area.

On the equity measures, California’s grade is a B-plus, which places it 11th in the national rankings. The nation as a whole earns a B.

K-12 Achievement

The K-12 Achievement Index examines 18 distinct achievement measures related to reading and math performance, high school graduation rates, and the results of Advanced Placement exams. The index assigns equal weight to current levels of performance and changes over time. It also places an emphasis on equity, by examining both poverty-based achievement gaps and progress in closing those gaps. The results of the K-12 Achievement Index reported here are from the Quality Counts 2016 report and have not been updated.

Indicators in the index can be broken down into three sub-categories: status, change, and equity.

Measures in the status sub-category evaluate a state’s current performance. California receives an F in this area and ranks 38th in the nation. The average state earns a D.

The change sub-category examines a state’s improvement over time. In this area, California posts a C and ranks ninth. The national average is a D-plus.

In the equity sub-section, states are graded based on achievement gaps between low-income students and their more affluent peers. California’s grade on those poverty-gap measures stands at a B-minus. Nationally, it ranks 41st in this area. The nation as a whole receives a B.

California’s 2017 Highlights Report includes summarized results based on each of the nearly-40 indicators that make up Quality Counts’ overall grading rubric. Tables with the full results are available in PDF form below:

- Grading Summary
- Chance for Success
- School Finance
- K-12 Achievement

View more 2017 reports on states and the nation >

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