While many observers point to a slow down in the number of high school dropouts as a sign of education accomplishments, they fail to see that the quality of the public education product in California is nothing short of abysmal when compared to other states.
The results from the 2011 test scores compiled by the National Assessment of Education Progress show that California now hovers near the bottom of the fifty states in math and reading.
Among fourth grade math scores, California came in 44th; among eighth grade scores, California is tied for 46th.
Matters are just as bad with reading comparisons. With respect to fourth grade scores, California ranks 47th; with respect to eighth grade scores, the state is tied for 48th place.
This is the precarious condition of public education in California today. For the most part, only Louisiana and Mississippi stand between us and dead last.
How did we come to this moment?
A couple of other data points shed light on the answer. Today California ranks 45th in the number of required public school attendance days. The state also ranks 45th in per capita spending on public education.
If these numbers aren't enough, California ranks 50th in pupil-teacher ratio, viewed by most experts as the most important factor to providing a sound education.
The situation could get even worse, hard as that may be to believe. Should further state budget cutbacks occur this coming January as many now expect, the next round of cuts for public education are likely to add to the state's public education woes.
So, what good is it if a California public high school graduate can't read or do math? Not much, especially if an employer can hire someone from another state who can.
All of which reminds us of that old axiom, "you get what you pay for."