The K-12 and other tertiary education systems of California have been the concern of various education scholars in the USA. The frequent underperformance index and the small number of teaching staff raise further curiosity following the maximum government spending on education in the United States as compared to other nations. The government definitely overspends because of the peculiar demographic structure with approximately 54.1% of public school students from low-income families and the increased numbers of English learners of about 23.2%. Other aspects of demographic changes like immigration, population increase, and the changes in ethnicity and races also cause greater pressure and jeopardy to the education system. To address the education challenges in California, this research reviews various literature to identify the challenges and offer recommendations as well as the best policies that need to be adopted for the realization of full changes and reforms in the sector.
Keywords: education, California, challenges
Education System in California
Education is a continuous learning process that involves every generation. Some scholars, like Mark K. Smith, consider training as the invitation of truth and respectful integration and containment of learning for future sharing (Seligman, Ernst, Gillham, Reivich, & Linkins, 2009). Every state in the world takes measures in promoting education by making massive investments to support the sector. The main driving forces for the state involvement are the belief that education eliminates poverty and avails critical knowledge necessary to solve common problems within and outside the country as well as imparts good morals onto society. Just like other states in the USA, the state of California has a fully set education system that mentors the young generation to become individuals with good morals, capable of being independent, and to nurture the appropriate skills that are vital on the labor market and for the provision of important solutions to the state’s problems.
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Despite the efforts of the Californian government to avail special incentives and the vast enabling environment for the prosperity of education, the state still maintains low achievement in the standard of learning. This paper will explore the education system in California and elucidate more on the demographic and budgetary changes that have occurred over time, outline factors facing the sector, and finally, come up with the solutions necessary to improve the industry.
Overview of the Education system in California
The public education in California starts from prekindergarten (K-12) all the way through grade 12. The K-12 education system includes pre-school, primary school, and secondary schools (Karoly & Bigelow, 2005). Thus, educational institutions operate within the districts under the governance of the locally elected school boards and superintendents. Next, comes the K-14 system that majorly includes community colleges from pre-schools to the two-year degree, and K-16 that commences from pre-school to the four-year degree.
Subsequently, K-18 and K-20 are available to the students who have attained the full master’s degree and a graduate degree under the docket of the Career Technical Education of California (Noguera, 2003). The body coordinates the program, develop policies, and conducts advocacy and technical education programs. Other important roles of the Career Technical Education include taking part in developing, disseminating, and implementing the state plan and the annual performance reports as well as providing management and coordination of different activities that impact the interagency and intra-agency objectives.
Public schools in California are of two types – the charter and magnet institutions. Magnet schools are the theme-based systems that use some specialized subject areas or more innovative learning techniques to attract students (Marlow, 2000). The management of such schools is bestowed on the district that does the administration work publicly. On the other hand, the chartered institutions operate independently as opposed to the public school system (Marlow, 2000). These schools are free from the federal requirements on hiring and curriculum as well as the scrutiny by the local education boards and the state. These institutions are illegible to the state funds for the facilities and other start-up costs.
Other forms of institutions that have emerged over time in California include online learning and home-based schooling. Some students resort to home education due to personal reasons. According to Greenway and Vanuorek (2006), the National Centre for Education statics unearthed approximately 1.7 million students subjected to home-based learning in the United States. The study reported that the primary educators under the system are parents and guardians who commit themselves to deliver the services based on the syllabus of the state (Gaviria & Raphael, 2001). Online learning is also supported by virtual public schools. In this case, the state legislative agency enacts frameworks for the management and grants provided to the virtual institutions.
Demographic Changes in California and Their Effects on Education
The population of California has been subjected to many migrations in recent times. The number of immigrants to the state continuous increases quite quickly. According to Card (2005), the approximated numbers of between 9% and 27% of migrants have moved to California mainly for various reasons. These reasons include fertile agricultural lands in the state, the existence of high-tech and entertainment industries, and recreation, leisure, and business purposes.
Immigration does great harm to the education system of California as well as the general workforce. For instance, in 2008, the state was ranked poorly among nations with poor education (Levels, Dronkers, & Kraaykamp, 2008). In the same year, the general workforce constituent had 21.6% illiterates, with 16% immigrants, and 5.6% native Californians (Levels, Dronkers, & Kraaykamp, 2008). A good number of Californian immigrants from the age of 19 years and above have low education standards, with only a few having high school qualifications. The subjection of the state to the massive number of unskilled and less educated individuals continually capsizes the training criteria since the illiterate people do little to support the education sector.
As a result of rapid immigration to California, the number of students that require special training programs for the Limited English Proficiency Learners (LEP), commonly known as the English language learners, increases (Ou, 2010). The system is costly and it burdens the government with more spending. A study conducted to estimate the government spending on LEP studies in 2016 unearthed increased government expenditures on the program at 59.8 billion dollars as compared to 51.2 billion in the year 2010 (Spotlights, 2016). The students undergoing the program are majorly legal migrants, illegal aliens, and refugees. The research found the poor academic performance of students experiencing the program despite the huge state spending (Spotlights, 2016). This means that international students have significantly contributed to decreasing the education quality and performance of the state of California.
The existence of LEP students exerts pressure on the teaching of most important subjects in the public institutions of California like sciences, music, arts, and libraries. Since the establishment of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) policy in 2001, available teachers show greater commitment to attending to the needs of the students with poor English as a pre-requisite to enable initial grasping of the information in the learning institution and achieving the national standards (Ou, 2010). The policy directs inclusive attendants of students with English proficiency by the educators at large, including immigrant students. The knowledge of English is vital as it makes the students competent in handling the technical side of academic content. Often, educators spend more time on these programs at the expense of the most vital subjects with difficulty to maintain the balance.
Rapid Population Growth Rate
California experiences a regular population increase. According to the US population distribution and change estimates, the population increased from 9.7% to 25.6% between 2000 and 2010 (Hoefer, Rytina, & Baker 2011). Still, more increment in Californian population is expected at about 18 million people by 2025. The fast growth in population has given rise to the establishment of more public institutions and the enrollment of more students in prekindergarten schools. The data by the National Center for Education Statistics found improved enrollment of students by 22% between 1985 and 2005 (Hoefer, Rytina, & Baker, 2011). The following effect ended up forcing some other institutions to open at unsafe locations with a dangerous environment. Thus, many district public schools have been found in unsafe neighborhoods, thus endangering the health conditions of the learners and educators.
Changes in Ethnicity and Race in California
California continually experiences the influx of a large number of Hispanics and some diversity of the African American population. The study on population outlined the increase in foreign-born citizens by 40% as compared to 13% of the US population (Aud, Fox, & KewalRamani, 2010). The study made a forecast of the expansion of some students in public schools by 2.6 million, while the international students form the majority, with about two million mainly from Asian American, Africa-American, and Hispanic origin (Aud, Fox, & KewalRamani, 2010). The period between 2000 and 2010 in Southern and Northern California denoted a significant number of Hispanics. One should note an abnormal 148% increase in the Hispanic population in southern California between 2000 and 2010. It means a large number of aliens in the region.
Hispanic students and other alien residents find difficulty in their academic experience. The familiarization problem scopes from the poor economic and social orientation by the parents coupled with the minimum know-how on the educational background (Aud, Fox, & KewalRamani, 2010). Such students, in turn, register low accomplishments of high school and degree, thus hindering the stability of the job market. Moreover, some foreign students continually find difficulties in interacting with teachers and other fellow students to enhance academic competence.
The level of ethnicity at times defines the educational attainment levels of students. In California, the research on the school measure of success in 2007 unveiled the variability in high school degree attainment (Hopkins, 2010). Thus, Hispanic whites with high school degrees were at 91%, 83%, and only 60% of Hispanics with the qualification, having 25 years of age and above. The similar research unearthed that 32% of non-Hispanic whites had attained post-high school degrees as well as 19% blacks and 13% Hispanics (Aud, Fox, & KewalRamani, 2010). Among the reasons responsible for the disparities in the academic qualifications are poor socioeconomic conditions at home, slow adaptation to the new environment, especially for the groups that have undergone recent migration, isolation, and poor attitude and feeling of self- unworthy by the foreign students.
The Challenges of Education in California
The ever-rising number of students in California has resulted in increased classroom congestion, usually past carrying capacity. A report at NEA, for instance, documented a severe overcrowding in the classroom at Georgia and many other parts of Southern California (Altbach, Gumport, & Berdahl, 2011). The unconducive class environment does more harm to the learning due to poor interaction between educators and learners as well as gives an unfavorable environment that hinders class attention and ultimately results in the performance decline.
The phenomenon of poverty in the public institution significantly jeopardizes learning. In California, research has estimated that about 25% of the public students thrive on the poverty level (Atkins, Brown, & Hammond, 2007). The effects are quite adverse. The students living in poor conditions hardly find sufficient food, sleep, and other basic materials that can support their peace of mind for academic excellence. The findings have always associated the poverty state with poor academic performance.
There are cases when students are more knowledgeable in technology than their educators, with some learners showing disrespect to their teachers because of this fact (Altbach, Gumport, & Berdahl, 2011). In addition, technology greatly distracts students from school activities and doing homework. On the other hand, the limited technology hinders interactive learning and students’ attention, especially for the topics requiring demonstrations using modern technology.
Some Californian institutions, in particular, those with the advanced technological systems, have frequently experienced the practice of cyberbullying. Students are involved in this activity in the form of virtual interactions, sending messages and extensively using social networks where they torment their peers and other victims (Altbach, Gumport, & Berdahl, 2011). The outcomes of cyberbullying are critical, sometimes leading to cases of suicide for some students.
Poor Students’ Attitudes and Behaviors
Cases of indiscipline are significant challenges of the public schools in California. Thus, teachers have continually reported apathy and disrespect cases as the factors hindering their careers. Likewise, tardiness and absenteeism by the learners are perceived as challenges to the education system of California, a problem that demoralizes teachers, especially at the high school level.
Poor Parental Involvement
The education system suffers from the problem of reduced parental concerns. In California, where the majorities increasingly become the aliens with poor socio-economic backgrounds and low education attainment, parents show less interest in the education of their children (Atkins, Brown, & Hammond, 2007). Thus, the burden of children’s’ education lies on teachers. Therefore, children lacking parental involvement continually exhibit a lack of seriousness while in school, thus disturbing educators as well as being careless about their academic performance.
Vulnerable Health Status of Students
As a result of the poor feeding habits, many students in California are prone to obesity. The condition further predisposes students to more risk factors like high blood pressure and diabetes (Berenson, Ginsburg, & Kemper, 2010). The condition, whenever occurs, becomes the reason for students’ frequent absenteeism as they need medical attention, which could lead to the decreased academic performance of such students due to their poor concentration.
The Deficit in School Funding
In recent years, public institutions in California have received insufficient funds as well as other necessary resources, such as few numbers of teaching staff, and they have suffered from a reduction in the provision of the essential services that support education (Smith, Katsiyannis, & Ryan, 2011). This insufficient funding negatively impacts the students from less stable families who entirely rely on the state for the delivery of learning materials. The situation also hinders the learning process due to the increased student-teacher ratio.
The No Child Left Behind policy adopted by the government has raised several concerns (Beveridge, 2009). Students, educators, and parents have taken the contrary stand. Thus, teachers have expressed great anxiety since the policy includes the increased scrutiny of teachers using the student test scores to evaluate student performance, which exerts additional pressure on teachers (Beveridge, 2009). Sometimes, teachers have taken subjective stands that the system forces them to perform the duty. On the other hand, the system refrains some important activities and even lunch breaks, thereby bringing dissatisfaction on the side of students and teachers.
Proposals for the Education of California
Several suggestions on the areas to improve are continually raised for the education stakeholders in California. Among the recommendations is the move to reduce class sizes with minimum funding. According to Kolb and Kolb (2000), to achieve class reduction, the government should employ more teachers and superintendents to serve the increasing number of learners, the engagement of the school administrators and counselors to teach for at least half of the day while giving some privileges to the college students from poor economic backgrounds to work as an associate teacher through in-program services.
All school staff members have been proposed to become members of the California state employees program. This program would benefit all teachers due to the easy transfer and the mobility of teachers in the entire country without the fear of losing salary and seniority. Another proposal is to require the state to introduce and implement the CTE training as vocational training in combination with other essential college entrance requirements. The plan advocates that education stakeholders assist the developers in using the school properties to design business and industrial structures that will expose students to the relevant information that is vital to the trade and other industries.
Collaborative and integrated approaches are critical in choosing the staff of public institutions. To achieve this, the suggestions call for close working of CDE, SBE, and COE in selecting competent teachers, university facilitators, best practice authorities for the private sectors, business and community professionals as well as when choosing parents and guardians with interest of working with the school staff to bring the improvement in the educational system of California.
Budgetary Changes in Support of Education
The state of California has attempted to finance education at different levels. Thus, prekindergarten schools have received approximately 880 million dollars support, while transitional kindergartens will get 725 million dollars in proportion to the 98 General Funds and 50 million dollars for the improvement and rating of the pre-schools (Darling-Hammond, 2015). The state also spends much on the Headstart programs – 985 million dollars and federal care of children of age between zero to five years while mainly targeting immigrant teenagers.
California has also adjusted on childcare support programs to promote the gainful employment of families. The program incorporates general child care, alternative payment program, and migrant child care (Darlind-Hammond, 2015). The state responds to the program by committing a third of its funds to service providers and two-third vouchers to the families that choose to use these vendors.
The Education Policy Change That Will Improve the Education of California
It is eminent that foreign students, especially those of Hispanic origin, drag the country’s school system. Therefore, it is vital that extraordinary measures be taken to curb the limitations of the vulnerable states. I would recommend the Californian state to scrutinize and uphold the Waiver’s policy of independent study – average daily attendance to the teacher’s ratio. The policy advocates the equitable delivery of services in the form of instructions and support to the learners of a different kind, while both independent and the Local Education Agency program students show regular class attendance.
The proper adoption of the average daily attendance of independent students will improve the positive image of independent programs, after which greater revenues will be realized since many people will want to join the program. The funds may help in solving the financial challenges of local education agencies and improving service delivery. Additionally, the students under free programs receive the opportunity to share the critical resources that complement the study such as computer labs, instructional materials, and free consultation.
Other methods that will help in improving the education of California include the reformation of the funding system, where the benefits should target the poor students of public institutions by first availing genuine parental background. The funds should extend the scope of coverage to provide some necessities lacking in such families. At the same time, the government needs to undertake training programs and mass awareness creation to the parents to make them offer good morals and help teachers make students diligent to boost their performance.
The government should also aim to fight poverty in every household. Likewise, necessary facilities, such as laboratories, adequate classrooms, and relevant technology that support education, should be acquired and availed for use. Moreover, teachers need to be motivated and given special treatment with great respect for making them render exemplary services while at work. Ultimately, I would urge the education stakeholders to promote the Head-start programs to increase familiarity with the learning concepts, especially to immigrant students.
For a long time, the education system in California has experienced various unsustainable virtues coupled with several limitations from the key players as well as the uncontrolled external factors. To solve common scholastic issues, the state education requires an inclusive approach of all stakeholders, the government, parents, educators, students, and the private sector to bring the issues for discussion and deliberate on the mitigating issues. Every stakeholder should learn from previous mistakes to bring new changes. The government, for instance, should take exemplary proactive measures to fight poverty in every household, avail appropriate facilities for learning, assist in choosing the school the board members who must be honest and self-driven for the prosperity of the institutions. Most importantly, greater focus must be on the sustainable learning environment with adequate and competent personnel. Thus, parents, students, teachers, and school board members should also strive to harmonize every challenge in education to maintain the expected standards. The phenomenon will bring some considerable improvement in the Californian education sector.