Education Week (EdWeek) released its annual special report Quality Counts 2015, which included its State of the States report card. Massachusetts earned top honors with an overall B average while the nation as a whole earned a C. Out of the three categories each state and the nation were graded on, the nation earned the highest marks in the Chance for Success Index with a grade of C-plus. In the other two categories– School Finance and Student Achievement– the nation earned a C and C-minus respectively. Massachusetts earned the highest grade in both the Chance for Success Index as well as the student achievement categories while Wyoming took top honors in the School Finance category by earning a B-plus.
Massachusetts has consistently ranked among the top states for several years. Several other states have consistently ranked near the bottom. Such a contrast highlights the fact states differ significantly in the performance of their public schools. This is important to point out as most states that received high marks by EdWeek also compared favorably to high performing countries while states that received the lowest EdWeek grades typically scored below most industrialized countries. While these grades are not necessarily reflective of the effectiveness of each state’s public schools since they don’t take into account how much students improved their academic performance while in school, they do provide valuable information on how well their students are prepared to enter the global labor market upon graduation. EdWeek’s grades indicate that some students are more likely to be prepared than others simply due to the state they were born in.
Here are some of the key findings from this year’s report card:
How well do states prepare their students for success?
- U.S. public schools earned an overall grade of C.
- The grade is an average of the nation’s Chance for Success, School Finance and Student Achievement grades.
- No state earned an A but Massachusetts earned top honors by receiving a B. New Jersey, Maryland and Vermont also received B’s although they earned slightly lower average scores.
- Wyoming earned a B-minus placing it among the top 10 for the first time in EdWeek’s rankings.
- No states earned a failing grade but three states earned a D (Mississippi, New Mexico, and Nevada).
- Thirty-one states earned grades between a C-minus and C-plus.
Chance for Success Index
What are the odds that the average child who grows up in a particular state will do as well as the average child in the top-ranked state, at each stage of his or her educational life? (these stages are: the early childhood years, participation and performance in formal education, and educational attainment and workforce outcomes during adulthood)
- Massachusetts ranked first for the eighth consecutive year by receiving an A-minus. New Hampshire also earned an A-minus while Connecticut, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and North Dakota earned a B-plus as they did a year ago.
- This means that children in Massachusetts have the best chance of achieving positive life outcomes, according to EdWeek.
- On the other hand, children in Nevada, New Mexico, and Mississippi have the least chance of achieving positive life outcomes by earning a D and D-pluses, respectively once again.
- The nation as a whole earned a C-plus just as in 2014.
How much do states spend on their schools? Is the spending distributed equitably?
- Overall, the nation earned a C in School Finance as it has for the past couple of years.
- Wyoming’s grade dropped from an A-minus to a B-plus but still received the highest grade of any state just as it has for seven consecutive years. However, seven states received a B-plus this year compared to just three last year.
- On the other hand, 15 states earned a D-plus or lower with Idaho the only state to earn a failing grade.
- States vary greatly in how much they spend on education even when taking regional cost differences into account.
- Vermont spent the most per pupil with $18,882 and Utah once again spent the least with $6,688.
- States differ in how much of their taxable resources they spend on education.
- West Virginia and Vermont spent the greatest proportion of their taxable resources on education at 5.1 percent
- Conversely. North Carolina and North Dakota spent the least of their taxable recourses on education with 2.4 and 2.3 percent respectively.
- States also differ in how much is spent between districts.
- Alaska had the largest difference between the funding of their highest and lowest districts where districts at the 95th percentile in per pupil funding spent nearly $14,000 more than districts at the 5th percentile.
- On the other hand, the disparity in Florida was less than $2,000. On average, the disparity between high and low spending districts nationally was $4,559 per pupil.
K-12 Achievement Index
How do states compare on the academic achievement of their students in elementary through high school?
- Public schools improved slightly since 2012- the last time the index was reported—but still earned a C-minus just as in 2012.
- The grade is based on the academic status and growth over time in math and reading scores, narrowing of poverty-based achievement gaps, as well as high school graduation rates and the performance on the advanced placement test.
- Massachusetts was once again top of its class just as it has since 2008 by earning a B. Maryland and New Jersey scored slightly lower, but still earned a B and B-minus respectively.
- Just two states–Mississippi, and the District of Columbia– received failing marks compared to four states in 2012.
- Thirty-two states earned grades between a D and C-minus.
About Quality Counts
The nation and each state are graded in three categories (Chance for Success; K-12 Achievement; School Finance; Standards). However, new data is only available for the Chance for Success and School Finance categories. Grades for the Student Achievement category are the same as last year because they are primarily based on NAEP results which are released every two years. Results from all three categories are combined to provide a composite grade in each state and the nation as a whole. — Jim Hull