I went 3-12 and college in Colorado. I did masters classes, teaching
credential, and community college classes for fun in California.
I taught in California schools and and observed in many different
classes. You are right that the classes in the high-performing
schools did more resemble the schools I attended.
But I also noticed that group work was really shoved down my throat
in my teaching practicum courses and there seems to be a disregard
in the state for high academic standards.
I don't know how Colorado may have changed in the last 15 years
since I have been gone but I know a lot of Californians flooded
California in that time. Coloradoans back in the day tended to be
well-educated so it may be that Californians who moved there may
have suffered in comparison.
As a Coloradoan, I and my peers tended to think of Californians as
slightly shallow thinkers. Sorry to tell you this. I guess it is the
beach culture along the more populated coastal area, breast
implants, uncritical acceptance of politically correct ideology,
pandering to minority groups, etc. And it is a general rule of thumb
in the United States that educational attainment improves as you
move East and North. Not hard and fast but still... A high-
performing suburb in Pittsburgh will probably outperform a high-
performing suburb in Denver, which will outperform a high-performing
suburb in San Diego.
I don't know if it is fair or not. But if there are highly qualified
teachers to be had with Colorado teaching credentials, why hire
someone with a California credential?