Schools get D+ from Students First

The nation’s schools earn a D+  from Michelle Rhee’s Students First. No state earned an A, reports U.S. News.

The group evaluated states on three policy areas: how well states “attract, retain and recognize quality teachers,” how well they give parents easily accessible information about their children’s schools and how well they spend public funds to support schools and teachers.

Louisiana (B-) and Florida (B-) earned the highest grades, followed by Indiana (C+). North Dakota, Montana and Vermont received F’s.

Fourteen states now assign A-F letter grades to schools or will do so by 2015, reports the Education Commission of the States’ new accountability database.

? All 50 states and the District of Columbia consider student achievement as measured by test results in their performance indicators
? 37 states and D.C. factor in student growth or improvement on tests in deciding school performance. That’s up from 21 in 2002.
? 44 states and D.C. consider graduation rates in determining school performance while 12 states include dropout rates.
? 9 states weigh growth of the lowest-performing quartile of students in judging their schools.

Florida was the first state to issue letter grades to schools in 2002.

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  1. Mark Roulo says:

    One thing that leaps out is that the letter grades assigned to the states here don’t match terribly well to the academic achievement of the various state’s kids.


    So … as an example, Louisiana gets a B, while Massachusetts gets a D. But the kids in Massachusetts tend to do better academically than the kids in Louisiana (at least I think they do … NAEP scores are higher for Massachusetts, right?).


    So maybe the grades here aren’t measuring what is most important? Are we supposed to conclude that Louisiana is doing a better job educating the students that they have than Massachusetts is, but that Massachusetts has better students? Or what? The students in Massachusetts score better on national tests …

    • PhillipMarlowe says:

      Michelle Rhee’s “Grades” are measuring what she finds important – at will employees, large administrations, high paid consultants.

      • Ann in L.A. says:

        When I saw the criteria used, it was mildly interesting, but not worth much in the long run. She’s cherry picking the things she wants to emphasize and totally leaving out 95% of what schools actually are and should do.

    • The “methodology” pdf goes into the “whys” and the “whats” but in a nutshell Student’s First is measuring the factors they consider important to consistently produce an educational environment conducive to the pursuit of excellence.

      Since the public education system has no incentives to pursue educational excellence it’s a politically adroit approach to measure those factors that would be employed if there were incentives inherent to the public education system to pursue educational excellence. Avoids the obvious conclusion that the public education system’s a stupid approach to educating kids which a lot people aren’t quite yet ready to hear.

      Not that a lot of people haven’t formed the conclusion that there’s something desperately wrong with the public education system, which is what’s been driving the enactment of alternatives to the district system, but to face the fact that this ubiquitous, long-standing institution is irredeemably flawed is a step most people aren’t yet ready to take.

  2. PhillipMarlowe says:

    Great comment at Edweek on this:
    “Why was this article written?
    Michelle Rhee is a noted liar.
    As Mary McCarthy said of Lillian Hellman, everything including the an and the.
    What’s next?
    George Lincoln Rockwell’s take on race relations?
    Osama Bin Laden’s take on Israel?”

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      No, that is a terrible comment. The question of how important these letter grades are is completely separate from the veracity of Ms. Rhee.

      And if lying was enough to throw you out of political debate, we would be hearing a lot of crickets. Politifact has given its “lie of the year” award to Sarah Palin (2009) and Mitt Romney (2012). For 2013, they gave it to the president’s “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” That hardly means I can dismiss everything he says–or mention him in the same breath as George Lincoln Rockwell and Osama Bin Laden.

  3. Do we get to grade the entire system in return? I’m hard pressed to figure out who will agree with the goals as outlined, or even interested enough to try to decipher the ratings.

    It would have been a better idea to unveil each leg of the platform every month or so, to add up to the total presentation. Lacking that, it comes across as a bizarre report from the parellel universe of, “What Michelle Rhee likes.” That the grades clearly don’t align with student achievement undercuts the project’s interest to anyone not in this organization.

  4. From the link: ” The lowest-ranked state was North Dakota, followed by Montana and Vermont – all of which received F grades.”
    Back when I used NAEP 4th and 8th grade Reading and Math scores to measure the effect of various policies, North Dakota consistently ranked at the top. Like the Education Trust rankings, Rhee ranks States by those inputs she (mistakenly) considers important.

    As ever, “What works?” is an empirical question which only an experiment (in public policy that means federalism or a market in goods and services) can answer.