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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Who’s #1 in ed? Ranking for quality, not $

Which state has the best schools? Traditional rankings, such as those in U.S. News, factor in school spending, write Stan Liebowitz and Matthew L. Kelly in Reason. In their results-only rankings of education quality, based on National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) scores, Virginia is number one, with Massachusetts, almost always ranked first, in second place. Florida, New Jersey and Texas round out the top five. Here’s the table.

White, Latino, black and Asian students in Texas outperform similar students in Iowa.

They also rate schools on efficiency: Florida, Texas, Virginia, Arizona and Georgia get the most brains for the buck.

In some cases, the differences are dramatic: Maine, ranked sixth by U.S. News, drops 48th for both quality and efficiency in the Liebowitz-Kelly ratings.

They also compared like to like. “Traditional rankings effectively reward states for not having many minority students,” they point out.

This is starkly illustrated by comparing Texas and Iowa. According to U.S. News and World Report, Texas, which ranks 33rd, is far surpassed in educational quality by Iowa, which ranks eighth. . . . when we disaggregate student performance scores by racial categories (white, black, Hispanic, and Asian), the rankings change dramatically. . . . Texas comes in fifth and Iowa 31st—a remarkable reversal.

White students, black students, Hispanic students and Asian students do better in Texas than Iowa, their analysis finds. Iowa looks good because it has a lot more whites.

New England states, highly rated by U.S. News because they’re high spending, drop in the new rankings: Rhode Island goes from ninth to 39th; Vermont from fourth to 27th. Southern states such as Texas, Georgia, and Florida, “jump from 33rd, 35th, and 40th to fifth, seventh, and third, respectively.”

Here’s a story on Education Week‘s ratings: The top five states are Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut.

They also looked how much states spend relative to student achievement. New Jersey, rated #4 for quality, spends twice as much as #3 Florida, they found. Factoring in the cost of living, they produced an “efficiency” index.

“The only state from the U.S. News top 10 that makes it into the top 10 for efficiency is Massachusetts, in 10th place,” they write.

“Students in fiscally conservative right-to-work states often perform better than their counterparts in high-tax, high-spending progressive utopias,” conclude Liebowitz, an economics professor, and Kelly, a research fellow. Both are affiliated with the Colloquium for the Advancement of Free Enterprise Education in the Jindal School of Management at the University of Texas at Dallas.

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