Quality Counts

Education Week’s annual Quality Counts report focuses on the national debate on common academic standards.

. . . Quality Counts 2010 assigns state grades in four of the report’s six indicator categories updated for this edition: the teaching profession; standards, assessments, and accountability; school finance; and the Chance-for-Success Index, which was created by the EPE Research Center to assess the role of education at key stages of a person’s life, from early childhood to adulthood.

The report also includes a Math Progress Index on how well students are learning math in different states. Maryland, Massachusetts and New Hampshire do the best.

The state rankings are the most controversial part of the report. The report’s Chance-for-Success Index is misleading, argues Margaret Raymond and the CREDO team on Education Next.

The index combines indicators related to family background, wealth, education levels, and employment with schooling measures, including kindergarten enrollment and selected National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test scores. The 13 components of success are identified in the sidebar. Not all of these have a clear relationship to postsecondary success, and several are beyond the control of state policymakers.

CREDO used the education data to devise its own success index, which excludes family factors. “Success” was defined as the percentage of young adults 18 to 24 who are working full-time, pursuing a college degree or on active military service.

Five indicators have a clear bearing on education outcomes: preschool enrollment, kindergarten enrollment, 4th-grade reading, 8th-grade mathematics, and high school graduation.

The new index changed the state rankings significantly.  While it provides a better look at states’ public education systems, the best index would measure “how well states and schools did, given their demography,” Raymond writes.

Education Gadfly also criticizes the methodology, but calls Quality Counts “the closest thing we have to a comprehensive annual report card on American K-12 education.”

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