- The Education Week Research Center this week unveiled its 23rd annual Quality Counts ranking of state education programs, with New Jersey outpacing Massachusetts by only a few hundredths of a point for the top spot. And though the nation received another C ranking overall, the national score of 75.6 signifies a half-point increase over last year, Education Week reports.
- Taking into account school finance, academic achievement and socioeconomic factors of state school systems, this year’s report reveals school finance often distinguishes leading states from their peers and indicates that some locations fare better than others, as most high-ranking states are in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions while the lowest-ranked states tend to cluster in the South, West or Southwest.
- While New Jersey and Massachusetts are tied on paper with overall scores of 87.8, or a B-plus, the school finance category allowed New Jersey to edge Massachusetts out of its four-year streak at the top with a score of 89.3, compared to the Bay State's 83.4, on the basis of spending and equity.
The latest Quality Counts report, the third of three installments this year, is based on a 100-point scale that accounts for three indicators developed by the Education Week Research Center: The Chance for Success Index, which takes into account educational opportunities from birth to career entrance; a School Finance category, which analyzes relative state spending and the equity of educational funding distribution across districts in each state; and a K-12 Achievement Index score, which was based this year primarily on 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress scores updated with the latest AP test scores and high school graduation rates.
Other notable takeaways from this year's installment include the fact top-ranking states tend to continue to improve because of increased educational opportunities. However, four out of five states posting the greatest improvements this year were in the West.
The percentage of parents with a post-secondary credential and those steadily employed also increased significantly, though the percentage of total taxable funding spent on K-12 education declined from 3.6 to 3.3% since the last report.
These reports offer some valuable insights into educational trends and comparative improvements. They also allow some comparison from one year to another as researchers can compare results from 2019 with the analysis of results from 2018, 2017 or earlier. And they draw attention to issues such as financial equity that may be overlooked in rankings that focus on just one aspect of education such as graduation rates or average ACT scores.
However, there is a question as to whether any ranking can truly define the quality of a state’s education system, as these judgments depend entirely on the criteria and methodology used to define those rankings, as well as changes to those methodologies from one year to another.
For instance, U.S. News and World report released in April its latest rankings of high schools across the county, and its methodology differs not only from that of Education Week, but also from how it measured high schools the previous year. This year, its metrics included six main criteria: college readiness, college curriculum breadth, math and reading proficiency, math and reading performance, performance of underserved students and graduation rates.