Making the Grade
May 17, 2017 11:19AM ● Published by David Norby
Article by Kristen Castillo
California has the most diverse student population in the country and the most number of students too, with over 6.2 million kids attending over 10,000 schools statewide.
Students deserve the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in their personal and professional lives. So how can parents make sure their children’s education is of the highest quality?
Starting kids early in their education continues to be a formula for success. Early Childhood education programs help kids develop cognitive skills, as well as emotional and social skills—all of which are necessary building blocks to succeed in academic, personal and professional lives.
For example, the state’s First 5 California program works in partnership with local counties to help educate kids ages zero through five. The goal? To engage children—both inside and outside the home—and develop skills that will help them be successful. According to First 5 California, kids who have access to high-quality early learning and care, “have demonstrated reduced healthcare costs, are better learners, citizens and ultimately better earners.”
Arts have been shown to stimulate kids, resulting in better grades and higher rates of college enrollment. The National Endowment for the Arts says at-risk student with arts in or out of school perform better at academics, have better job opportunities and more civic engagement.
Across California, schools K-8 are embracing the arts. Statewide curriculum mandates programs known as VAPA (Visual and Performing Arts) that focuses on dance, music, theatre and visual arts, showing kids and educators that the arts are important.
Grading the Schools
Parents need to check their school’s report card to make sure the educators are making the grade.
The California Department of Education recently launched its California School Dashboard, which they say is like a report card to help parents, educators and the public evaluate schools and school districts. The new “Dashboard” will grade schools and districts in six state measures: academic indicator (which includes results on standardized tests); career/college readiness; English learner progress; graduation rate; suspension rate and chronic absenteeism.
They will also be evaluated in four local indicators: basic services and school conditions; implementation of state academic standards; parent engagement; and school climate. Two additional local indicators for county offices of education include coordination of services for expelled youth and coordination of services for foster youth.
According to the California Department of Education (CDE), the graduation rate for 2015 (the most recent numbers reported), 82.3 percent of high school students graduate.
The rates were up for English learners, Hispanic or Latino students and African American students. The dropout rate also declined 0.8 percent from 11.5 percent in 2014 to 10.7 percent in 2015. Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, calls the increased graduation rates encouraging, saying student are “benefiting from the additional revenues” going to schools as well as the resurgence of “relevant and engaging classes in science, civics, arts, and Career Technical Education.”
Classroom success happens when parents, students and educators work together. Then students can move forward in their education, building on their skills one class at a time.