According to the “teachability index” developed by Manhattan Institute researchers Jay P. Greene and Greg Forster, today’s students are 8.7 percent more teachable — that is, less prone to disadvantages that affect learning — than they were in 1970.
Children’s physical health and economic security have substantially improved, and preschool enrollment has grown dramatically. While other factors have presented increased challenges — broken homes and students whose native language isn’t English are more common — these changes have been more than offset by ongoing improvements in children’s well-being.
North Dakota, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and South Dakota have the most teachable (least disadvantaged) students. Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and the District of Columbia have the hardest-to-teach kids.
In looking at academic outcomes relative to “teachability,” the study found “states with more school choice or stronger accountability testing demonstrate better school performance.” Montana, Colorado, Kansas, Texas, and North Carolina rank best on the School Performance Index; California, Alabama, Mississippi, Hawaii and the District of Columbia are the goats.
Utah, Idaho, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arkansas get the most performance for the buck. Lowest on the School Efficiency Index were Alaska, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and the District of Columbia.
Of course, there have to be many ways to weigh students’ disadvantages.