Torlakson Leads ‘Strong Schools for a Strong Economy’ Tour

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson launched a month-long statewide tour today highlighting innovative career technical programs that help prepare students for jobs in the 21st-century economy.

Partnering with California School Boards Association (CSBA) President Jill Wynns along with teachers, parents, administrators, and school employees, Torlakson said the “Strong Schools for a Strong Economy” effort would underscore the link between California’s education system and the future of its economy.

“Despite cuts of more than $20 billion over the last few years, schools across California are doing more than ever to connect students to careers and the modern world of work,” Torlakson said. “The Linked Learning approach and programs like it keep our students more engaged while they are in school, and brighten their prospects for college and a career once they graduate. Schools have made preserving these programs a priority, but I’m deeply concerned that further cuts could see them placed on the chopping block.”

“We believe that students should not only be college ready at graduation but also workforce ready,” said CSBA President Jill Wynns. “School boards, administrators, teachers, and parents have done a remarkable job of keeping the schoolhouse doors open. However, the progress made to date in academic performance and the attainment of workforce skills will be lost without the state, once again, prioritizing public schools,” Wynns added.

“California’s educators see every day why investing in programs that prepare our students for the 21st-century workforce is vital to the future of our state,” said Dean E. Vogel, president of the California Teachers Association. “Our classrooms are already feeling the impacts of unprecedented cuts at a time when the state already ranks 47th in per-pupil spending. Billions more in cuts are possible unless voters in November provide our students with the new state revenues they all deserve.”

Funding for career technical education programs in California has been cut by $140.3 million in recent years, and much of what remains has been placed in categorical flexibility—meaning schools can use those funds for other programs. This year’s state budget also eliminated more than $50 million in funding for Career Technical Student Organizations. And schools face the prospect of $5.4 billion in additional “trigger” cuts depending on the outcome of the fall initiatives.

Torlakson began the tour today with a visit to Colton High School in Colton, where he was joined by Wynns, Colton Joint Unified School District Superintendent Jerry Almendarez, and Colton Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Laura Morales, who also serves on the school district’s Board of Education. The group visited classes in computer literacy and in consumer and family sciences before meeting with parents, teachers, and community leaders at the school.

The effort will continue on October 18 at Andrew P. Hill High School in San Jose, where Torlakson and Wynns will visit classes taking part in the school’s programs emphasizing medicine, healthcare, and technology. Also on this day, the California Department of Education will host a Webinar for districts interested in participating in a new state Linked Learning pilot program. Districts are encouraged to apply by November 30.

On October 19, Torlakson will visit Peter Johansen High School in Modesto. The school’s career technology programs include an emphasis on home economics.

On October 30, Torlakson and Wynns will join Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy at Cleveland High School in Reseda, visiting the school’s Academy of Arts and Technology and meeting with teachers, parents, and school employees.

And on November 1, Torlakson and Wynns will visit San Diego’s Patrick Henry High School, touring the school’s Engineering Academy, Healthcare Pathway, and Teaching and Human Services Academy before meeting with parents and faculty at the school.

Throughout the month, Torlakson and Wynns also will be meeting with media representatives to discuss the tour and their perspectives on how initiatives on the November ballot can help California address the need to prevent further budget cuts to education.

Torlakson, who declared a financial emergency in California’s schools when he took office in 2011, said the effort is meant to emphasize the need to prevent further cuts to school budgets.

“Our schools have more than met the challenge of doing more with less. But in this rapidly changing world, we need to do even more—retooling how we teach and what we teach—so that all students graduate with the real-world skills they need for college and a career,” Torlakson said.

“California’s schools are already engaged in this work, remodeling our education system, keeping the best of what we have while replacing what’s out of date. But our schools cannot do this alone,” he said. “That’s why we want every Californian to see the incredible work that’s going on—and invite them to be partners in our success.”


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The California Department of Education (CDE) is a state agency led by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. For more information, please visit or by mobile device at You may also follow Superintendent Torlakson on Twitter at and Facebook at

Math and English Scores Increase 9th Straight Year

PASADENA—The 2012 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) test results marked the ninth straight year California students improved their performance on annual statewide mathematics and English-language arts exams, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced.

Approximately 4.7 million students participated in the 2012 STAR program, with 57 percent scoring proficient or above in English-language arts and 51 percent scoring at proficient or above in mathematics, the highest percentage since the tests were fully aligned in 2003 to California’s content standards, which describe what students should know for each grade and subject tested.

“In less than a decade, California has gone from having only one student in three score proficient to better than one student in two,” Torlakson said. “That’s nearly 900,000 more students reaching proficiency now than in 2003—a remarkable achievement that represents real, sustained improvements in learning.

 “Even more remarkable is the fact that our students continue to make gains even as our schools—and the teachers, administrators and school employees working in them—are getting by with so much less,” Torlakson said. “As pleased as I am by the great progress many students are making, the deep school budget cuts of recent years make it ever less likely these gains will continue. Preventing further cuts and beginning to restore what’s been lost are essential to helping every student learn and prepare for the future.”

On the 2012 STAR tests, the percentage of students at or above the proficient level increased by 3 percentage points in English–language arts (Table 1) and 1 percentage point in mathematics (Table 6) over last year.

The percentage of students scoring at the proficient or advanced level increased by 22 percentage points since 2003 in English-language arts, or from 35 percent to 57 percent (Table 1); and 16 percentage points in mathematics, from 35 percent to 51 percent (Table 6).

Some 54 percent of students taking the Summative High School Mathematics exam, (Table 6) scored proficient or above, or an increase of 11 percentage points since 2003, and 52 percent of students taking the biology exam (Table 13) scored proficient or above, an increase of 15 percentage points in that 10-year period.

While the STAR results show an increase in proficiency levels among all subgroups, a persistent achievement gap exists for African American, Latino, English-learner, and low-income students, compared to their peers.

“Like every teacher, parent, and principal—despite the decade of progress we’ve seen—I won’t be completely satisfied until every child has the opportunity to achieve his or her full potential,” Torlakson said.

The full results can be found on the California Department of Education (CDE) Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Web page at Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Results.

Under the STAR program, California students attain one of five levels of performance for each subject tested: advanced, proficient, basic, below basic, and far below basic.

The State Board of Education has established the “proficient” level as the desired achievement goal for all students. That level represents a point at which students demonstrate a competent and adequate understanding of the knowledge and skills measured by the assessment at a particular grade, in a particular content area. This achievement goal is consistent with school growth targets for state accountability and requirements of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

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California High School Exit Exam Results Shows Growth

95 percent of Students Meet Graduation Requirement

LOS ANGELES—The percentage of students from the Class of 2012 meeting the California High School Exit Examination graduation requirement increased slightly over last year to 95 percent, marking the sixth straight year of improving performance, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today.

 “When 95 percent of California students are hitting the mark — despite the tremendous challenges we face and the work we still have to do — there’s an awful lot going right in our public schools,” Torlakson said. “I congratulate the students who succeeded on this test, the teachers who provided invaluable instruction, and the parents who gave their support and encouragement.”

The (high school exit exam) is administered each year to ensure that students who graduate from public high schools demonstrate competency in reading, writing, and mathematics. Students who do not pass the (test) in Grade 10 have two opportunities in Grade 11 and up to five opportunities in Grade 12 to pass.

Preliminary results for the July, October, November and December 2011 and the February, March and May 2012 test administrations show increased passing rates among most demographic subgroups of students by the end of their senior year. African American and Hispanic students made some of the largest gains.

Overall, about 95 percent, or 424,480 students, in the Class of 2012 successfully passed both the English-language arts and the mathematics portions of the (test) by the end of their senior year. This was an increase of 0.8 of a percentage point over the previous year and an increase of 4.6 percentage points since the Class of 2006, the first class required to pass the (exam).

 “While I’m happy about the progress made by the Class of 2012, I still have concerns for the Class of 2013, the Class of 2014 and all the classes that will follow,” Torlakson said. “We have made solid improvement but schools and districts are facing some unprecedented challenges right now. Overcrowded classrooms, shorter school years and fewer teachers are in store for us unless we stop the cuts to education funding and begin restoring some of what has been cut in recent years.”

Results for the exam, which is one of several state and local graduation requirements for all students, will be provided at the school, district, county and state levels. They will be posted on the (Exit Exam) Summary Results Web page. Individual student  results are confidential.

This year’s overall passing rate did not include students with disabilities who are currently exempt from passing the test to graduate. They are required by state and federal law  to take the exam in Grade 10. Many of the students, however, continue to take the exam. For the Class of 2012, the passing rate for students with disabilities was 55.5 percent compared to 56.3 percent last year and 47.8 percent for the Class of 2006.

Among African Americans, 91.9 percent of the Class of 2012 passed the exam, an increase of 2.3 percentage points over the Class of 2011 and 8.2 percentage points over the Class of 2006.

Hispanic or Latino students of the Class of 2012 had passing rates of 93.1 percent, an increase of 1.4 percentage points over the Class of 2011 and 7.6 points over the Class of 2006.

Asian students passed the test at a rate of 97.8 percent, a 0.7 of a percentage point improvement over last year. White students passed at a rate of 98.6 percent — 0.4 of a percentage point better than last year.

The percentage of students passing the (exam) in the 10th grade, which is the first opportunity they have to take the test, has steadily increased.

Some 83 percent of the Class of 2014 has already passed the English Language arts portion, compared to 82.4 percent of the Class of 2013. In math, the passage rate for first-time test takers in the Class of 2014 was 83.6 percent, compared to 82.7 percent of the Class of 2013.

The gap between Hispanic and white students has narrowed by 12.5 percentage points from the Class of 2006 to the Class of 2014 (who were 10th graders this past school year) for the English Language arts portion of the (exam). For the mathematics portion, the gap between Hispanic and white students has narrowed by 12.9 percentage points from the Class of 2006 to the Class of 2014.

Similarly, the gap between African American and white students has narrowed by 7.5 percentage points from the Class of 2006 to the Class of 2014 in English Language arts. In math, the gap between African American and white students has narrowed by 10.5 percentage points from the Class of 2006 to the Class of 2014.



Torlakson Reports Climb in Graduation Rates for California

SACRAMENTO—High school graduation rates are up across California and dropout numbers are down, state education officials said Wednesday. The biggest gains being made among English learners and the state’s largest minority groups, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today.

The new numbers represent the most accurate picture of how many state students are making it through school to graduation day. More than three quarters, or 76.3 percent, of students who started high school in 2007 graduated with their class in 2011. That is up 1.5 percentage points from the 2010 graduation rate. Larger gains were seen among Hispanic and African American students at 2.2 and 2.3 percentage points respectively, with the biggest increase being among English learners at 3.8 percentage points. The graduation rate for socioeconomically disadvantaged students climbed nearly 2 percentage points, from 68.1 to 70 percent.

          “Every graduate represents a success story in one of the most effective job and anti-poverty programs ever conceived, our public schools,” Torlakson said. “These numbers are a testament to the hard work of teachers and administrators, of parents and, most of all, of the students themselves. While they are a great illustration of all that is going right in California schools, they should also remind us that schools need our support to continue to improve so that every student graduates prepared for college, a career, and to contribute to our state’s future.”

Beyond the 76.3 percent graduation rate and the 14.4 percent dropout rate, the remaining 9.3 percent are students who are neither graduates nor dropouts. Some are still enrolled in school (8.6 percent). Others are non-diploma special education students (0.4 percent), and some elected to pass a high school equivalency exam.

Graduation and dropout rates for counties, districts, and schools across California were calculated based on four-year cohort—referring to this particular group of students—information using the state’s California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS). This is the second time this four-year cohort information was collected, making this the first time that it can be compared year to year. With two years of data, the cohort rates will now be used to determine whether schools have met their targets for increasing the graduation rate for the Adequate Yearly Progress reporting under the federal school accountability system. The 2009-10 rates were also adjusted as a part of this data release (marked “A” in the tables below) to include only those students who were first-time ninth graders in the 2006-07 school year.

The new cohort dropout rate is calculated for high school students, grades nine through twelve. However, there are also significant numbers of students who drop out of school during the middle school years. Starting with the 2009-10 school year, the state began tracking individual students as they moved through the education system, identifying those who disappeared from schools and forcing districts to figure out where they were.

“Our research shows that chronic absence from school, even as early as kindergarten, is a strong indicator of whether a child will drop out of school later,” Torlakson said. “The dropout rate shows there’s still much work to be done, particularly to address the needs of disadvantaged and minority students. We must build on our work with parents and communities in the earliest years to pave the way for kids to succeed in school.”

CALPADS has made great strides since an independent oversight consultant was critical of the initial release of the system in 2009. In its latest report, the same independent oversight consultant concluded, “The CALPADS project is presently in the healthiest state of its history.”

To view and download state, county, district, and school graduation and dropout rates, please visit the CDE DataQuest Web site at DataQuest. Reporters are encouraged to use caution when comparing education rates among individual schools and districts; some, such as county office schools, alternative schools or dropout recovery high schools, serve only those students who are already at the greatest risk of dropping out, compared with the broader population at traditional high schools.

Please share with us your graduation success stories.

Top Ten Ways to Appreciate Teachers

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson urged all Californians to find ways to appreciate teachers during May 6-12, designated as National Teacher Appreciation Week.

“Teaching is the most important job there is,” Torlakson said. “Ask just about anyone about the person who made the biggest difference in their life, chances are that person is a teacher. Let’s all take a moment this week to say `thank you’ to California’s teachers.”

Here’s Torlakson’s top 10 list.

For students:

1.     Thank your teacher for all of his or her hard work.

2.     Do your best on homework and in-class assignments.

3.     Behave in class, so your teacher can devote more time to teaching.

4.     Respect your teacher and your fellow students. This will create a better learning environment for everyone in the classroom.

5.     Raise your hand to answer your teacher’s questions and participate in learning.

For parents:

6.     Send an e-mail or a note with your children to school, thanking their teachers for their hard work.

7.     Appreciate teachers for the professionals that they are, and give them the same respect you would give a good friend who takes care of your children.

8.     Provide a helping hand in the classroom, during sporting events, on field trips, or at the school site.

9.     Donate school supplies. Teachers often pay out of their own pockets to provide their students with the tools they need to learn.

10. Hold fundraisers and donate the proceeds to schools that have been hard hit by state budget cuts.

May 8 is National Teacher Appreciation Day, an annual tradition continued by the National Teachers Association. May 9 is California Day of the Teacher, a day established under California Education Code Section 37222, to encourage schools to conduct exercises commemorating and directing attention to teachers and the teaching profession.

For the California Day of the Teacher, two organizations created themes to honor educators. The California Teachers Association theme is, “Great Teachers: Building a Better State for Public Education.” The Association of Mexican American Educators theme is, “Educating Students for a World of Opportunities.”

Torlakson Announces New Family Engagement Framework


SACRAMENTO—Sharing the vision of California GEAR UP in the vital importance of parent involvement in the success of students, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today released a new, free publication, Family Engagement Framework, a Tool for California School Districts, to help school districts engage families in their children’s education.

“Parents are every child’s first teachers,” Torlakson said. “The good news is you don’t need an advanced degree to help your child succeed at school. It’s the little things that make a big difference—reading at home, talking with your child about school, and setting high expectations. Our Family Engagement Framework provides practical ways to help schools support parents to stay involved and help their children learn.”

The Family Engagement Framework is the culmination of nearly a decade of collaboration between the California Department of Education (CDE), an informal Title I advisory group to the CDE called Family Area Network, and the California Comprehensive Center at WestEd, California GEAR UP strategic partner and evaluator.  Funding for the project was provided through a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The development of the Framework is authorized under Title I of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act and CaliforniaEducation Code Section 11503.

The Framework describes 18 principles that are essential for family and community involvement with the school district. These principles are grouped into five action areas to:

(1) help school districts build the skills and confidence of parents,(2) demonstrate leadership, (3) use resources, (4) monitor progress, and (5) ensure access and equity for everyone. Specific actions to engage families and the community are described for each principle, ranging from basic to progressive to innovative. The Framework is outlined in a way to help school districts evaluate their progress and plan for improvements.

“This new resource from the department will be a valuable addition to our family engagement initiatives and we will share this tool with GEAR UP schools across the State.  In collaboration with our partners, we provide statewide services to families because we know that “Families Make the Difference”.
-Shelley Davis
Director, CA GEAR UP

The California Comprehensive Center did a thorough review of literature showing a strong link between parental involvement activities and student achievement. The research is summarized in the Framework, coupled with specific examples of what schools, communities, and parents can do to help students succeed. The publication also contains a list of articles that school administrators and teachers can read to create effective, research-based practices in family engagement. For example, the Framework can guide districts in planning and coordinating family engagement programs more effectively and includes examples of communications to families that may be copied or adapted for use in newsletters, e-mails, and other outreach efforts.

Copies of the Framework will be distributed to all school districts in California and will also be posted on the California Comprehensive Center Web site at


Torlakson: Task Force to Expand Use of Classroom Technology

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today announced the creation of the Education Technology Task Force to recommend how to bring 21st century tools into California’s classrooms to improve teaching and learning.

In creating the 48-member Task Force, Torlakson said he recognized the severe financial limitations currently facing schools, but was establishing the group now so that a plan for making better use of technology would be ready when more resources were available.

“Technology is changing nearly every aspect of our lives. But in California—home to Silicon Valley and the world’s leading technology companies—many schools have been all but left out of the technology revolution,” Torlakson said. “If we’re serious about providing our students a world-class education, we need a plan that leaves no school and no child offline.”

Torlakson also discussed the Task Force during the annual Computer-Using Educators Conference held over the weekend in Palm Springs.

The all-volunteer, unpaid Task Force is comprised of teachers, administrators, technology directors, local and county superintendents, school board members, parents, researchers, policy advocates, and foundation/community members from around the state.

The Task Force will work in groups led by facilitators to explore education technology in five key areas—learning, assessment, teaching, infrastructure, and productivity.

Members will assess the state’s current education technology infrastructure and identify gaps between the current National Education Technology Plan and California’s most recent plan, which was approved in 2005. The group also will assess future needs and recommend how to improve teaching, learning, and equal access to technology for all students.

Creation of the Task Force was among the goals set out in the Blueprint for Great Schools, a report on the future of education in California prepared for Torlakson by his Transition Advisory Team, a group of nearly 60 parents, teachers, and business and community leaders.

The Blueprint calls for incorporating one-to-one technology as a key component of teaching, learning, and assessment that supports high levels of literacy, bi-literacy, and prepares students for success in the global economy.

As part of its duties, the Task Force will get input from stakeholders and experts in the field. A Web page also has been created on the Brokers of Expertise Web site for anyone who would like to contribute information, research, and case studies at

The Task Force is expected to present recommendations to Torlakson to revise and develop a California Educational Technology Blueprint over the next few months, followed by a series of public meetings to gather comments on issues identified by the Task Force.

For more information on the Education Technology Task Force, please visit the California Department of Education Web site at