While California’s scores remain low, they dropped less than those in other states between 2019 and 2022.

A Pre-Calculus Class At George Washington High School In San Francisco.
Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Pandemic school closures are over, but parents, teachers and students still wonder how prolonged distance learning affected academic progress.

The initial signs are concerning.

Scores released this week from a statewide exam administered in the spring revealed dismally low levels of proficiency in reading and math. About 47 percent of California students met English language standards and 33 percent met math standards, both performance drops from 2019.

The findings were echoed by national data also published on Monday, which found that just 30 percent of eighth graders in the state achieved proficiency in reading and 23 percent in math, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the nation’s report card. (The national exam, which is separate from the California one, sampled students around the country and is generally considered more rigorous than many state tests.)

Both tests showed larger declines in math, compared with reading. If there’s any glimmer of good news for California, it is that students’ academic performance here fell slightly less than across the nation during the pandemic, my colleague Sarah Mervosh reported.

“That’s an unexpected surprise coming from California, the place where students were remote the longest anywhere in the country besides Washington, D.C.,” Sarah, who covers education for The Times, told me.

California’s reading scores held steady on the national exam, even as average reading scores fell in a majority of states. Students here experienced significant declines in math — a trend across the country — but not as much as in some other states.

The office of Gov. Gavin Newsom was quick to promote the state’s performance: “California Outperforms Most States in Minimizing Learning Loss,” read the headline of a news release. But performance on the national exam is influenced by many factors, and researchers cautioned against drawing fast conclusions about remote-learning policies based on the latest data alone.

“Comparing states is tricky and people will likely go to red state, blue state, which is not the most helpful framing,” Sean Reardon, a professor of education at Stanford University, told Sarah.

In one interesting finding, California, which stood out for its caution in reopening schools, experienced declines that were roughly in line with those in Florida, which was among the first to reopen schools. Los Angeles stayed closed longer than almost anywhere else in the country, according to data by Burbio, a school tracking site, yet it was the only place to show significant gains in eighth-grade reading.

Still, California’s fourth graders are performing below their peers in Florida in math, for example. And scores in Los Angeles are below the average for other big city districts in several categories.

For more:


Mary Haasdyk

After the entertainment world’s reckoning amid the #MeToo movement, Hollywood’s business culture has started to regress in subtle ways.


Jamie Kelter Davis for The New York Times

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

  • Weinstein trial: Opening statements in Harvey Weinstein’s second sex crimes trial took place Monday in Los Angeles. Prosecutors said they would show the former movie producer had a clear pattern of sexually assaulting women, while Weinstein’s lawyer said his actions were part of a Hollywood culture of “transactional sex.”

  • Santa Ana winds: Large parts of Southern California were hit with Santa Ana winds in what some meteorologists are saying might be the biggest Santa Ana event this year, The Los Angeles Times reports.

  • Friend healing: By the time he was 49, the “Friends” actor Matthew Perry had spent more than half of his life in treatment centers or sober living facilities, he writes in his new book, “Friends, Lovers and the Big Terrible Thing.”

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

  • School absences: In San Francisco, 29 percent of the school district’s 50,800 students were chronically absent last year, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

  • Buried car: Crews fully excavated a car that the police said was buried in the backyard of a mansion in Atherton in Silicon Valley and found no human remains, The Associated Press reports.


Val Riolo

For $1.2 million: A 1910 Arts and Crafts cottage in Los Angeles, a 1924 Mediterranean-style home in Berkeley and a Spanish-style house in Palm Springs.


Ryan Liebe for The New York Times.

Orecchiette with brussels sprouts and bratwurst.


Etienne Laurent/EPA, via Shutterstock

Today’s tip comes from Rebecca S. Fahrlander, who lives in Bellevue, Neb.:

“The city of Costa Mesa is a great stop along the Southern California coast. In July and early August, visit the Orange County Fair at the Orange County Fair and Event Center. Take in a concert at the Pacific Amphitheatre, which features well known musicians and groups such as The Moody Blues in the Summer Concert Series.

Costa Mesa is also home to the famous South Coast Plaza, the largest shopping center on the West Coast. It is a great place to shop at big stores like Nordstrom and Macy’s, smaller luxury stores such as Bulgari, and to just walk around, people watch, and maybe stop for a quick snack. Finally, immerse yourself in art and culture at the nearby Orange County Museum of Art. All this against the beautiful background of sunny skies and palm trees.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.


Five artists to watch at the California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art.


Have you visited any of the travel destinations that we’ve recommended in the newsletter? Send us a few lines about your trip and a photo!

We’d like to share them in upcoming editions of the newsletter. Email us at [email protected]. Please include your name and the city in which you live.


Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

On Saturday, thousands of people stretched across a mile of San Francisco coastline for the 40th annual Leap Sandcastle Classic, a competition that brings elementary school students from across the Bay Area to showcase their architectural and sculpting talents.

Darren Choy, a manager of engineering services with RRM, a design firm, held posters for the kids with pictures of the landmarks they were trying to emulate in the soggy sand, including the Transamerica Pyramid, Coit Tower and Lombard Street. “This is the vision,” he explained.

After some initial chaos as children sprinted with shovels upon hearing the starting horn, the teams, all dressed in matching shirts made for the event, focused on executing plans they’d spent weeks working on, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

“They’ve been so excited for this,” Jackie Phung, a fourth-grade teacher at Alice Fong Yu Alternative School, a Chinese immersion school in the Inner Sunset, said as he watched his students piling sand into what would become models of San Francisco landmarks.


Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Briana Scalia and Jaevon Williams contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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