Research Paper on Contemporary Issue Facing Education in California

7 pages
1812 words
Sewanee University of the South
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Research paper
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Currently, California is undergoing a lot of changes, and it is facing a lot of uncertainty in most of its sectors. Just like many other states, California is emerging from the economic recession that happens recently. A closer look reveals the lingering challenge of in its education sector and that issue is yet to be resolved. Studying this issue points at a common underlying theme: quality of teaching. An approximated 83% of Californias population consider the matter of poor quality of education as the main contemporary issue facing California at this age. California schools educate a huge number of students which represents a huge percentage of the nations student population. Despite a significant number of students, California still faces the challenge of poor quality of education.

The poor quality of education has not come by accident. Rather, its a result of several factors that have yielded the deterioration of the quality of instruction in California. The unique series of challenges relating to relatively low and unreliable funding, poor student performance and likely reduction of funds to Californian schools are the major issues that have resulted in a bad quality. The world is changing at lightning speed, but from the look of things, California is still lagging behind in the quest to provide a high quality of education. Zeichner (2010) argues that America needs to take decisive steps with a focus on global changes through commodification of teacher education, hyper-rationality and increasing transparency and accountability to provide quality and equitable education. The ideal system will prepare all the children for success in the current society which is so much obsessed with knowledge. Unfortunately, the current trends and conditions in California seem to dictate and lead to a failure in that dream of providing equitable education.

Contributing Factors to Poor Quality of Education

i. Low-Income Families

When compared to other states, California records a 23.2% of students who come from low-income households. That figure remains the highest in the nation. Students from low-income families have higher levels of needs, and for that reason, they need better allocation. Reports from research work that has been conducted in the past indicate that a significant percentage of the U.S student population live below poverty level. Citing the findings of Southern Education Foundation, we find that a majority of students in public schools comprise of students who hail from low-income families. Estimates also project that poverty levels will escalate to 25% in the not-so-distant future.

Hair and Hanson (2015) establishes that students living at or below the poverty line show lower educational attainment compared to those above it. Research work has also indicated that students who do not have access to enough food and less sleep are likely to perform dismally in their studies. Schools and the political class are aware of the underlying challenges that schools in California are facing, but instead of dealing with the issues, they simply ignore the facts. Hughes and Avoke (2010) mentions that failing to acknowledge the existence, prevalence, and complexity of poverty is maintaining the problem. That better explains the poor quality of education that is currently experienced in California.

Source: Estimates from 2014 California Poverty Measure.

From the graph, it can be noted that there is a clear educational achievement gap among the students with different financial backgrounds. To alleviate the effects of the poverty on school going children, there are programs like the social safety net which were started. It is quite notable that without the social safety net, child poverty would be much higher meaning a higher rate of school dropouts. Poverty levels over the counties also vary substantially indicating that the quality of education would be relatively affected all across the entire state. Family factors is another significant issue that affects the quality of education and performance of a pupil from a low-income family. To surmise, families experiencing family problems experience poor quality sleep. Julia, Anne, and Frans (2009) note that the quality of sleep directly relates with a school performance of children. From that finding, we note that the quality of education is affected by the quality of life that a student leads as well as family factors. The mentioned factors above depict the Californian situation which has continuously affected the quality of education.

ii. Californias and Unstable Funding Levels

Economic recession hit California as hard as it had hit the entire nation. As a result, the funding to public schools has continuously reduced. From 2007 to 2012 has dropped by 19%. Even before the recession, per-pupil spending was $10,687 which was ranked the 25th in the nation. After the recession effects, funding for schools was further cut down signaling further deterioration of what was already a poor state of education in California. The amount awarded to pupils in California was, in fact, lower than the U.S average. Even after making adjustments for varied costs of living in different states, California still records a low per-pupil spending.

Local governments fund schools in other states, unlike Californian schools which rely heavily on state funding. Downes (2009) reports that state funds increased in subsequent financial years after a court ruling allowed states such as California to access states resources to improve per pupil expenditure. Despite the fact that California contributes the highest share of the school budget, its per-pupil allocation still lags behind the rest of the states. California schools continue to depend on funds from the State unlike in other states where schools get distribution form local governments. Stephanie, Fernando, and Jesse (2010) established that California school districts do not invest in developing school facilities. As a matter of fact, there seems to be more emphasis on carrying out other commercial projects rather than improving school facilities. As a result, the quality of education that is offered has continuously deteriorated due to the lack of proper facilities.

After the approval of the Proposition 30, school districts were going to record an increase in tax increase and more substantially would have resulted in the increase of funds for schools. However, the Proposition 30 was only going to be effective until the year 2019 after which the school districts would continue to register higher costs. The larger increase would have resulted from higher costs from teachers pension allocations. The looming issue of paying teachers Retirement benefits would mean that the school districts will have to pay the vast majority of the $170 billion amount resulting in a funding shortfall for the schools. Ensuring that the tight school budget is further squeezed proves to be a pretty difficult thing to do. A further expenditure of approximately 28% on employee benefits and books and other school supplies would have further squeezed funding to the school. Such a continuous trend of reducing funds allocation gradually impacts the quality of education that is offered. California has continuously suffered from an inconsistent funds supply, and as a result, its academic performance has been weak when compared to other states.

iii. Limited Personnel

Californias student-to-teacher ratio is 25-to-1, which is the highest ratio in the nation and it is much greater than the nationally recommended average of 15-to-1. Therefore, the students are in larger class sizes which is much higher. The students share the few resources. With a large class size, teachers get less time to concentrate on individual students. Unlike other states, California has a record number of students with special needs. Small group focus demonstrates to be more beneficial for children that are socially withdrawn (Lisbeth, 2010). Considering the huge number of students, group attention would benefit a large population of students. Demonstrably, California is poorly endowed with few teachers and that leaves students on a disadvantage path because they cannot get close attention from their teachers.

Over the past years, California has always lagged behind in the number of instructional staff, which include counselors, librarians, and teaching assistants. Just like the number of class sizes, California has a record high ratio of student-to-librarian. For example, the student-to-librarian ratio is approximated to be 7,890-to-1. Such a proportion is so high as compared to other states which have smaller proportions. With such a huge number of students to handle, the quality of services offered to deteriorate, and as a result, the quality of education offered is also lowered.

Peter (2007) states that the role of teaching assistants is a direct one in the sense that the face-to-face interactions support students. The findings show that teaching assistants make the pupils more interactive and active in class due to the individualized attention that they receive from their teachers. Sadly, this is not the case for California schools because they hold an extremely high ratio of student-to-teaching assistants ratio which stands at 389-to-1. This figure is the 6th highest in the whole nation. Evidently, it is hard to deliver quality in such scenarios where the personnel-to-student ratio is so high.

These low personnel levels in schools are likely to exacerbate the high needs of students in California. Approximately 54.1 % of students in California qualify to access free education and reduced lunch. That number is greater than the national average, and typically these students have higher educational needs thus demanding more resource allocation from the government. However, this is not the case as California schools have less personnel as compared to other states. The current state of affairs indicates that student population in classes are in excess by ten more students. The desperate point which these schools have been pushed only dictates that the students share the available resources. Chapman and Ludlow (2010) investigates the relationship between class sizes and perceived student performance. In their findings, they establish that despite efforts by all the stakeholders, the class size had a significant negative relationship with student performance. The results of this study confirm one of the reasons for poor quality of education in California.

iv. Poor Performance

Many people think there is so little to improve in our education system, but that is not the case because education in California leaves a lot to desire regarding student performance. Compared to other states, California students perform dismally. That record is not an annual observation. Rather, it is a trend that has been happening over the last decade, and it has left students in California trailing behind the other states. Another striking piece of data indicates that in addition to the low test scores, 22 % of students fail to graduate from high school. Additionally, California records a 4.0 % dropout rate which ranks as the 13th highest in the whole nation. Further, only 38 % are prepared to go for university education in California.

There exists an educational achievement gap among the diverse population of students in California. Most notably is the vast gap of progress that exists between poor students and those from better-off families. California records the highest number of students from low-income households, and as a result, there is a significant gap between the achievement levels. Low student performance is a combination of several factors which include but not limited to security, healthcare, crime,...

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