Counting quality

This year’s Quality Counts report by Education Week includes a Chance-for-Success Index, which evaluates: parents’ income, education, employment and English fluency; preschool and kindergarten enrollment; fourth-grade reading and eighth-grade math proficiency on the National Assessment of Educational Progress; four-year high school graduation rate; college enrollment, and percent of adults with college degrees, above-average incomes and steady employment.

Virginia, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire rank at the top of the index, while New Mexico, Louisiana, Arizona, Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama lag significantly behind the national average.

I don’t see how this analysis is useful. What is New Mexico supposed to do to reduce the percentage of children from low-income Spanish-speaking families? I’m much more interested in comparisons of how similar students — such as children from low-income Spanish-speaking families — perform in New Mexico vs. Texas vs. California. Low-performing states can adopt the education strategies of higher-performing states; they can’t change their demographics.

What’s far more interesting is the report’s analysis — for the first time ever — of what states are doing to define “what young people need to know and be able to do to move successfully from one stage of education to the next.”

States are doing more in the early years to evaluate school readiness and help children who start out behind, Quality Counts concludes. However, little progress has been made on ensuring that high school graduates are prepared for work or college. Graduation requirements “are based on the courses students must take, rather than a more specific list of knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college, and the level at which students must perform.”

Nine states now require students to take college-prep courses as the default curriculum. Six states require high school students to take a college-entrance exam. More than half the states are working on high school reform, but “so far, there appears to be far more goodwill in those areas than actual policy results.”

The new College Puzzle blog by Mike Kirst, a retired Stanford education professor, will look at how to do a better job of preparing students to succeed in college. I’ve known Mike for years and plan to go for coffee with him and teach him to hyperlink. He advised Ed Week on the report.

Update: Edspresso has posted a critique of the Chance-for-Success Index.

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