Tuesday, December 06, 2005 | The

California teachers rank third among the states in teacher pay, and we spend $10,300 per student each year, but our students rank below Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Here is a shocker: the public schools in New Orleans have yet to re-open, so theoretically California could hire Louisiana teachers and raise our children’s test scores! This assumes that teachers are the best hope for success for our students, and I believe that to be the case.

Our state now tests incoming teachers, and 100 percent of those tested pass the test. When Massachusetts tested their teachers in 1998, 59 percent failed a basic literacy test, but new California teachers pass their basic exam at an almost unbelievable rate. In the latest published test (2003-2004), of 20,741 new teachers tested, 20,723 passed.

So, California teachers are paid at the highest level, ranked third in the nation and test at a 100-percent rate, but our students rank poorly. In no test of the Nation’s Report Card do our students rise to average, and, in most cases, we are at or near the bottom.

California newspapers devote many column inches comparing schools within the state by API scores, while there is scant coverage of how poorly our students are doing compared with students in other states. The 330,000-member teachers unions, who have recently demonstrated their political firepower, will tell us that the tests are unfair or unfairly target California because of our large immigrant populations.

While that may well be true, it is also true that our schools will not participate in identifying those students who are non-English speakers – regardless of their legal residency status in the country – and therefore lower all test scores, because schools want the per-student income that the student brings, legal or not. Schools want to have it both ways.

Whatever the rationalization, the numbers are the numbers.

We will hear, “We know we have a lot of work to do.”

Yes, there is much work to be done, but we must first admit that there is a problem.

Not just a problem, but problems. And the bad news just does not rise to the attention of the public. For example, the Harvard University Civil Rights Project found that California schools misreport the number of minorities who drop out of school. In particular, Harvard found that California reports those who drop out in the senior year,

Parents in California are rightly concerned about the API scores of their local schools, but there is a lot more going on in California education. And comparing failing California schools to other failing California schools is simply determining who is the best-dressed man in Big Foot, Texas.

It is a comparison against a diminished standard. The national and international numbers need to be examined closely. They all show that California students are failing as a group, but that some students excel in spite of the system.

Allen Hemphill is a local writer and real estate broker living in Escondido.

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