Nation’s mega states achieve some improvements but big challenges remain

New analysis from the National Center for Education Statistics shows student performance in California does not fare too well when compared to the nation's four other mega states."

The report was released Thursday as part of a national seminar on lessons that might be learned from the teaching and learning experience in the nation's largest states - California, Texas, New York, Florida and Illinois.

Why study the mega states? Officials from the NCES - who oversee administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation's Report Card - point out that the key demographic changes taking place in the U.S. are already transforming the mega states.

California, Texas, New York and Florida had the largest increases in immigrant populations over the last decade. Illinois had the sixth largest increase.

Most of the nation's English learner students are being educated in the mega states - nearly 1.5 million are enrolled in California alone, the largest number in the nation and more than twice any other state.

Also, of the estimated nine million families in the U.S. living below the poverty line in 2011, more than one third are residents of one of the mega states.

In 1990, 7 percent of eighth-grade students nationally were Hispanic, compared to 23 percent in 2011. Nowhere have those changes been more pronounced than in the mega states. In California and Texas, for example, Hispanic students are now the majority.

It comes as no surprise to the education community, but California ranks at the bottom in terms of performance based on the most recent NAEP results in reading, math and science.

Florida scored higher than the nation in fourth grade reading, but lower in eighth grade math and science. Illinois scored higher than the nation in grade 8 reading, but lower in science.

New York scored higher than the nation in grade 4 reading, but lower in grade 4 math and grade 8 mathematics and science. Texas scored higher than the nation in eighth grade mathematics and science, and lower in reading.

Other highlights:

Fourth graders in Florida produced a 16-point gain between 1992 and 2011 in reading scores.

Between 1992 and 2011, black students in California and Florida, white students in Florida, and Hispanic students in New York made larger gains than their national peers.

California's fourth graders generated a 26-point gain in math scores between 1992 and 2011 - but not enough to be significantly different from the nation.

The average math score for Texas eighth-graders was 32 points higher in 2011 than in 1990.

Black eighth-graders in Texas scored 42 points higher in 2011 than in 1990.

California fourth-graders scored lower than the nation and all the other mega states in science in 2009.

Texas eighth-graders scored higher than the nation and all the other mega-states in science in 2011.

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