The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation once again is grading each state on their educational effectiveness based on 11 indicators in their most recent Leaders and Laggards report card. However, if you’re looking to find out which state is this year’s valedictorian you won’t find it in this report card. Unlike student report cards, the Chamber didn’t calculate a composite GPA. Reason likely being the Chamber wanted to keep the focus on where state’s can improve in each of the 11 areas graded which would have likely been overshadowed by an overall ranking of states. For this, I applaud the Chamber as the report card should be viewed as a tool for continuous improvement not as a final evaluation.
Although each of the indicators has their limitations, they provide some context as to how each state compares to other states in a wide range of areas. As our Data First site highlights, there is no single measure that can accurately evaluate the effectiveness of our public schools and all measures have their limitations. Understanding these limitations is key to using any measure to evaluate our public schools.
Keep in mind, however, that not everyone has the same definition of effectiveness when it comes to our public schools. While we all may agree that the main objective of our public schools is to improve student achievement, others may argue that schools should also turn out good citizens or creative thinkers while others may argue an effective school is one that keeps children out of harms way. These are all valid characteristics of an effective school but it shows that effectiveness is really based on the values of the individual doing the evaluating.
And the Chamber’s report card is no different. While they utilized 11 indicators, these indicators align with the values of the Chamber and what they believe constitutes an effective school which may not align to the beliefs of you or me. That is important to keep in mind as you read the Chamber’s report card. As the report card likely doesn’t include all the indicators you would use to evaluate the effectiveness of your public schools.
So, just because your state may not have earned high grades on the Chamber’s report card, your state may have earned straight A’s on yours. – Jim Hull
All states improved their academic performance between 2005 and 2013 but the improvement varied greatly by state
- Hawaii, Washington, DC, and Maryland made the greatest gains during this time period by improving their NAEP 4th and 8th grade math and reading scores by 13, 12, and 10 respectively. Such gains are roughly equivalent to about a year’s worth more of learning.
- On the other hand, South Carolina, Michigan, and South Dakota made the least amount of gains over this same time period by improving their scores by 1.5, 1.0 and .25 points respectively.
- Half or more of 4th graders in just six states scored at or above the NAEP proficient achievement level on the 2013 math assessment.
- In no state did at least half the students reach the NAEP proficient achievement level on either the 4th or 8th grade reading assessments.
- Massachusetts was the only state where at least half (54 percent) of 8th graders reached the NAEP proficiency level in math.
States vary widely in the return on their education investment
- Utah, Colorado, and Idaho received the most bang for their buck as they spend fewer dollars per NAEP score point when taking into consideration the differences in the cost of living.
- On the other end of the ROI spectrum, West Virginia, Louisiana, and Delaware saw low NAEP performance along with high costs.
- Yet, simply keeping costs down didn’t necessarily equate to higher ROI grades. For example, both Wyoming and Mississippi received F’s in their return on investment yet Mississippi ($9,330) spent over $7,000 less per student than Wyoming ($16,594).
The college readiness of most high school graduates is lagging
- On average 20 percent of graduates passed at least one Advanced Placement (AP) exam.
- No state did more than 30 percent of graduates pass at least one AP exam while in high school.
- Maryland and Connecticut had the highest pass rates at 29 percent followed by Virginia at 28 percent.
- Louisiana and Mississippi had the lowest pass rates at 5 and 4 percent respectively.
- In those states with high pass rates provide both the access and the preparation to succeed in college-level courses.
Few students are receiving preparation for STEM related fields
- Less than 10 percent of graduates passed an AP STEM exam nationwide.
- Massachusetts had the highest pass rate of AP STEM exams at 16 percent followed by Maryland and Connecticut with 15.8 and 15.4 percent passing respectively.
- Nine states had STEM AP exam pass rates of less than 5 percent with Louisiana and Mississippi achieving the lowest pass rates at 1.9 and 1.2 percent respectively.
Parental choice varies by state
- Washington, DC has the largest market share for schools of choice—in terms of charter schools and voucher programs—which is by far the largest share of any state. The state with the next highest market share is Louisiana at 22.9 percent.
- Wyoming has the smallest market share at just 2.5 percent
- However, larger market shares didn’t necessarily lead to higher grades in parental options.
- Indiana received an A despite the fact they only have 4.5 percent market share for schools of choice.
- Maryland received a F while having a 15.9 market share for schools of choice.
States can identify good teachers; they just can’t get enough of them
- The recent reforms to teacher evaluation system appeared to have improved the states’ ability to identify teacher quality, retain effective teachers, and exit ineffective ones.
- However, states are still struggling with preparing good teachers and expanding the pool of teachers through alternative certification programs.
Unfunded state pensions threaten public education
- The inability of some states to fund their pension liabilities threatens their ability to fund all types of public services like education.
- Connecticut, Kentucky, and Illinois are three states that have contributed less than half of what they should to keep their funds solvent.
- On the other hand, Washington, North Carolina, and South Dakota have funded their programs at the required levels.