Social engineering

A Look at School Achievement in the United States, California, and Coronado Unified


Submitted by Robert P. Grobe, Ph.D.

In the following paragraphs, I am going to summarize some comparative Achievement Information and try to shine some light on where and what level students in Coronado Unified School District (CUSD) are achieving. I am going to start out with some international comparisons; move to National level, on to California levels, and to CUSD student achievement. Because of word limits allowed, I will be doing a summary of only one subject area mathematics. However, I will also present a few brief but enlightening points related to history/civics. While other subjects are not being discussed, I would emphasize that the patterns for mathematics are very similar to all subject areas. Ultimately, I will make some recommendations.

International Comparisons. The website for the National Center for Educational Statistics summarizes information from a Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). As a quick summary, the PISA study for mathematics achievement of 15-year-old students was compared in 77 educational systems around the globe. The US average score was lower than 30 educational systems and was lower than the average score for all students participating in the assessment.

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In addition to examining average scores, participating students were also categorized in terms of 6 levels of proficiency. Looking at percentages in the lower and upper levels, the United States had 27% of students classified in the lowest level of mathematics proficiency. The United States had 8% at the highest level of proficiency. As a thought-provoking comparison, Mainland China had 2% at the lowest level and 44% at the highest level.

Interestingly, the 10 top ranked systems in order were Mainland China, Singapore, Hong Kong (China), Macau (China), Chinese Taipei, Korea (Republic of), Netherlands, Japan, Switzerland, and Poland. The pattern is clear. Asian educational systems dominate the top ten. Most Comparative Education studies find that the major contributing factor to having high scores (indicating high achievement) is more instructional minutes for academic subjects such as mathematics, science, language arts/reading/writing, and history/social science and the Asian systems show clearly that they spend more minutes of instructional time on the academic subjects. The goal is simply more time on task related to academic topics.

It is clear that, if an educational system desires to be successful in increasing academic achievement, members of that system cannot be taking time away to include social engineering programs like No Place For Hate (NPFH) and Critical Race Theory (CRT) activities. Furthermore, responsible staff should be looking for ways to eliminate as many non-academic activities as possible from instructional minutes allowed for the day. Other activities should be extracurricular activities.

National/State Level Comparisons. Examining data at the national level from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reveals that 34% of 8th grade students in the United States are performing at or above a proficient level. In California 29% of 8th grade students are classified as being at or above a proficient level. California ranks 43rd in 8th grade mathematics proficiency. Only 9 states plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia score below California.

A Look at CUSD Achievement:  California assesses school district students in grades 3-8 and 11 with the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP). On the CAASPP, 39.7% (or almost 40%) are classified as Meeting or Exceeding the Standard for Mathematics.

Looking at summary test data for Coronado High School, 62% of students met or exceeded grade level proficiency in Mathematics on the CAASPP. Which means that 38% do not meet the standard for grade level proficiency.

If we want the decrease the number of students not meeting grade level proficiency (i.e., 38%), identify who the 38% are and ADD MORE instructional minutes (more time on task) for the 38%. Again, DO NOT be taking time for NPFH and CRT activities. In addition, eliminate as many non-academic activities as possible or move them to extracurricular. The effort to improve the achievement level of the 38% will take creative and hard work but Coronado students deserve the effort.

Brief Comments Related to History/Civics Achievement. A new study of 41,000 Americans conducted by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation found that only one in three Americans can actually pass a test consisting of items taken from the U.S. Citizenship Test. Interestingly, the data from this assessment revealed gaps associated with different age groups. Of those 65 years and older, 74% passed by answering at least 6 out of 10 questions correctly. Of those under the age of 45, only 19% were able to pass the exam.

Other interesting facts: (1) 60% do not know which countries the United States fought in World War II;  (2) 57% of all Americans do not know we have 9 Supreme Court justices;  (3) 12% thought Dwight Eisenhower led troops in the Civil War and 6% thought he was a Vietnam War general. As a last point California ranked #30 among the 50 states with 60% failing the test.

The message is clear, we must care about the education of all of our children in Coronado and we must be confident that they are getting the academic instruction they need to compete in our complex world. If any of the above data concerns you, please make your concerns known to the Coronado School Board. Attend a Board Meeting or send each Member and the Superintendent an email. Educate yourself on the issues at

Robert P. Grobe, Ph.D.



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