California has received an F in school spending on the annual Education Week report card, which helped drag down the state's overall grade to a C in how it runs its schools -- a dismal ranking that places it 36th among the 50 states and Washington, D.C.
That's par for the course in how the state has performed in recent years on the survey by the not-for-profit organization.
If it's any consolation, California's overall grade was only slightly below the national average of C-plus.
And the ranking in state financing for schools was based on 2010 data, before the rosier budget and state voters approved a tax increase to boost school spending.
In the six-part review, the Golden State actually received an A for its standards, tests and school accountability. It got a B-minus for transitions -- how well different grade levels and schools flow into one another. But it dropped to a C in teaching and in "chance for success" -- a broad index covering preschool enrollment, graduation rates, college readiness, workforce statistics and adult educational attainment, among other things.
The teaching section rated not teacher quality, but measured accountability and incentives.
In K-12 achievement, California earned a D.
The poor showing comes on the heels of California students ranking low in various other surveys. The state recently received an F in education policy from the reform group StudentsFirst; California eighth-graders performed below the U.S. average in math and science, and fourth-graders scored fifth-lowest in the nation in vocabulary. The latest rankings provide fodder for reformers who argue that California education needs to overhaul its school finance, governance and teacher management. Curriculum will be revamped within a couple years, with California having adopted new standards common to the majority of states that will change what's taught and how it's tested.
In a written statement, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson addressed the state's finance grade: "This report highlights for me that Californians saw the need in our schools and stepped up to meet it when they passed Proposition 30. It will take years to restore the resources our classrooms have lost over the past several years of budget cuts, but we are beginning that work in earnest this year."
He did not address the other areas of the report.
As in the past, East Coast states dominated the top tier of the Quality Counts survey, done by Maryland-based Education Week and the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center. Maryland ranked first with a B-plus, followed by Massachusetts, New York and Virginia. At the bottom were states in the South and West: South Dakota scored a D-plus to place 51st, just below Nevada, Idaho, Mississippi and Alaska.
In tandem with reviewing states' education policies and spending, researchers also surveyed more than 1,300 administrators and teachers about discipline, safety and school climate. In that survey, 92 percent rated teaching quality as very important to educational success. Smaller percentages of respondents listed school climate, school safety and discipline policies as very important.
And only 38 percent cited family background as very important to student achievement.
Administrators and teachers expressed support for less punitive discipline -- in-school suspensions received more support than did out-of-school suspensions. A minority saw expulsions and "zero tolerance" -- automatic expulsions for certain offenses such as bringing a weapon onto campus -- as effective.
Asked whether they think students and staff are safe on their campuses, only 46 percent of educators in high-poverty schools answered yes, compared with 83 percent in wealthier schools.
In behavior, a split emerged between teachers and more optimistic administrators. For instance, 60 percent of administrators strongly agreed that students were well-behaved, while only 28 percent of teachers agreed.
Contact Sharon Noguchi at 408-271-3775. Follow her at Twitter.com/NoguchiOnK12.
"Chance for Success": C-
K-12 Achievement: D
Standards, Assessment, Accountability: A
Transitions and Alignment: B-
Teaching Profession: C-
School Finance: C-
Education Week's SCORES
3. New York
51. South Dakota