Politics & Government

Ad Watch: Marshall Tuck promises state schools turnaround

Marshall Tuck, one of two challengers to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson this year, released his first radio ad this week. Tuck is the former head of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a nonprofit network of 17 low-performing campuses that were taken over by the city beginning in 2008. Following is the text of the 30-second ad and an analysis by Alexei Koseff of The Bee’s Capitol Bureau.

Girl: Dear California voters, our schools need big changes.

Boy: They rank 45th in the nation, while Sacramento bureaucrats and politicians smother them with red tape …

Girl: ... and waste your tax dollars.

Boy: As state schools superintendent, Marshall Tuck will cut the bureaucracy and give parents more control.

Girl: Marshall Tuck’s the only candidate who’s turned around failing schools. Please vote for Tuck to turn around ours.

Narrator: Paid for by Marshall Tuck for State Superintendent of Public Instruction 2014.

ANALYSIS: While accurate that California schools are among the worst performing by national standards, Tuck’s ad does not provide full context for the achievements of the schools he led.

It is true that, under Torlakson, California has continued to rank poorly on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a biannual standardized test taken by a representative sample of fourth- and eighth-graders across the country. The state was 46th in both fourth-grade reading and fourth-grade math on the 2013 exam. California eighth-graders finished 41st in reading and 44th in math.

But progress is mixed at the Los Angeles schools that Tuck oversaw until last August. (The Partnership began with 10 schools in the 2008-09 academic year and has added seven more since then.)

Those campuses have experienced an average growth of 9.2 percentage points in the number of students who are proficient or above on California’s standardized English tests and 13.6 percentage points in math proficiency. They have also seen an average increase of more than 70 points on the 1,000-point academic performance index and the high schools have collectively boosted their graduation rates by 21 percentage points.

Most of the Partnership schools remain well below district and state averages on all these metrics, however.