California student test scores rise

SAN FRANCISCO -- California's public schools must be doing something right.

For nine straight years, standardized test scores have gone up across the state, with 54 percent of the 4.7 million test takers showing grade-level proficiency in English and 50 percent earning a proficient rating in math, according to the most recent round of results released Monday.

It was the first time that at least half of California's elementary and high school students reached proficiency in each subject.

"The significant and sustained improvements we've seen for nine consecutive years prove how hard teachers, school employees, administrators and parents are working to help students achieve despite budget cuts that have affected our schools," said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, in a statement. "Their heroic teamwork is paying off for California."

A 50 percent proficiency rate may not sound great, but it's a vast improvement over the state's starting point in 2003, when just 35 percent of students were performing at grade level in English and math.
Still, the results could complicate the argument put forward by teachers unions and school officials that persistent cuts to K-12 education have harmed student performance.

"I believe that if we fund education properly, that we will get to the 60 percent proficiency and then the 70 percent proficiency level," Torlakson said in an interview. "That's our goal."

The test results also found an increase in the number of students taking and testing proficient in high-level math and science courses, including Algebra II, biology, chemistry and physics.