Academic Achievement

Despite improvement since our last report, student performance in California is very weak. Fourth graders stand 9 percentage points below the national average in the percentage at or above the proficient level on the NAEP math exam. The national average is 42%.

Academic Achievement for Low-Income and Minority Students

California earns a failing grade on academic achievement for low-income and minority students. Only 13% of African-American 4th graders score at or above the proficient level on the NAEP reading exam. 

Return on Investment

Student achievement in California is above average relative to state spending after controlling for cost of living. 

Truth in Advertising: Student Proficiency

California posts mediocre marks on the credibility of its student proficiency scores. The grade is based on the difference between the percentage of students identified as proficient in reading and math on the 2011 state exams and the percentage identified as proficient on the 2011 NAEP reading and math tests.

Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness

California earns a high grade preparing its students for college and careers, with 27% of students passing an AP exam.

21st Century Teacher Force

California does a weak job of creating a strong teacher workforce. The Golden State does not effectively identify excellent teachers or remove ineffective ones. 

Parental Options

California does a good job providing parents with strong school choice options. The state has a fairly strong charter school law, and information on school report cards and charter options is easy for parents to find.

Data Quality

California did not receive a grade for this metric because the state did not participate in the Data Quality Campaign study.


California receives a very poor grade employing technology to provide quality instruction and personalized learning. Its funding policies do not incentivize more digital options, and state infrastructure is not sufficient to support digital learning.

International Competitiveness

California earns a below average grade preparing its students to compete in a global economy, with only 23% of students proficient in reading and math compared with an international standard.

Fiscal Responsibility

California receives below average marks on fiscal responsibility. Only 77% of the state’s pension is funded, and its most recent pension contribution was 72%.