Black, Latino and poorer students, as a group, consistently lag their peers in California. What will equalize opportunity? (Photo courtesy of CalMatters)

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Introduction

Few goals in education have been as frustrating and urgent as the effort to fix the deep, generational disparity in achievement between the haves and the have-nots in California schools.

It is an article of faith in the K-12 school system that every student — regardless of race, creed, wealth or color — can and should be academically successful. But in measures from standardized tests to dropout rates to college completion, the achievement gap has persisted in cities, rural communities and suburbs, a sign that opportunity is not yet equal for many children in California classrooms.

Over the last decade, prompted in part by budget constraints in the aftermath of the recession, California has initiated sweeping reforms in an attempt to channel more resources to high-needs students and to better level the educational playing field. These and other efforts have, to some extent, improved academic outcomes — but black, Latino and poor students still lag dramatically behind Asian American, white and wealthier students.

That challenge remains, not only a source of political tension, but also a looming economic problem for California.

CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Ricardo Cano

CALmatters