Public education is doing a wonderful job. In fact, we are better than ever! It is time to stop bashing the cornerstone of this country. Educators must become proactive in their communities by making public the correct information about basic skills, test scores, dropout rates and public funding.
Public schools across the nation have changed a great deal during the past 25 years, particularly those in Southern California. One-fourth of the nation's immigrants settle in the Los Angeles Basin and attend our local schools, becoming immersed in the society that surrounds them.
School staffs face the breakdown of parental authority, widespread poverty, gangs, drug abuse, racial hostility, teen pregnancy and escalating levels of violence. Teachers no longer spend their time merely teaching the 3 Rs; they are now also expected to be social workers, parents, baby-sitters, part-time judges, lawyers and security guards. In spite of these additional pressures and on top of doing a top-notch job of teaching young people how to read, write and compute, they teach morals, social skills, job skills and bicycle safety.
Let's talk about some of the myths of education, such as alleged declining test scores, basic skills, and state spending and rising high school dropout rates.
SAT scores of white students have remained stable over the past 25 years, while the SAT scores of every minority group have risen dramatically. In 1990, the Educational Testing Service reviewed 20 years of National Assessment of Educational Progress findings and concluded: " . . . There have been various declines and improvements from assessment to assessment, but over the long term, achievement levels are quite stable."
In terms of the dropout rate, a report from Sandia National Laboratories shows "America's on-time high school graduation rate has been steady for 20 years at roughly 75% to 80%. . . . This rate is improving and is among the best in the world." We are happy to report that the dropout rate in the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District is less than 1% (district enrollment is 23,620).
For many years, California has enjoyed the reputation of being a leader in business, technology and education. No longer. During the '93-94 school year, statistics show, California spent an average $4,640 per student--$1,090 less than the national average. New Jersey spent an average of $10,112. California schools do not receive adequate funding; school districts have been forced to eliminate and/or reduce programs. Lack of proper funding has also forced districts to increase class size.
Taking all this data into consideration, how do public schools measure up? Very well, indeed.
We are graduating articulate, literate, competent, valuable young people who are smarter than ever before. According to research done by Bruce Biddle and David Berliner, "In the U.S., today's youth probably average about 15 IQ points higher that did their grandparents and 7.5 points higher than did their parents on the Stanford-Binet and Wechsler tests."
Are we where we need to be in today's world? Absolutely not. We must "raise the bar" for all children, we must make it possible for our young people to reach high standards, and we must all work together toward that goal. Don't believe rumors and unsubstantiated stories--Orange County schools are great on the inside!