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First State Indicators Issued; More To Come

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The chief state school officers were scheduled to release this week their first state-by-state comparisons of educational "indicators."

Volume 1 of "Education in the States" focuses on basic demographic and fiscal data, much of which has been available from other sources.

According to the report, the information will provide the context for "fair and constructive" comparisons of states' educational performance in the future.

The report comes three years after the Council of Chief State School Officers first endorsed the notion of comparing student achievement by state.

But Ramsay Selden, director of the council's education-assessment center, warned that such comparisons would not be available until the fall of 1990 at the earliest.

That prediction is based on a federal proposal, supported by the chiefs, to expand the National Assessment of Educational Progress to allow for state comparisons of student learning.

Most of the data in the current report were already available from other sources, such as the U.S. Census Bureau and the Education Department. These include the average school-age population for each state in 1986, and the percent living in poverty.

However, the report also provides some new calculations, including the average school-age population per district in each state. The report also includes examples of how the chiefs might group "like" states in the future to ensure "fair" comparisons of educational outcomes.

For instance, states are grouped into five categories of relative wealth, based on the gross state product per school-age child.

That is defined as the total value of goods and services produced in the state divided by its 5-to-17-year-old population.

Under this grouping, Alaska and Connecticut are among the states included in the "high relative wealth" category; Arkansas and Utah are in the "low relative wealth" category.

In addition to groupings based on such background characteristics, the report provides an example of how states might be grouped into regional clusters, such as the New England or Mid-Atlantic region.

It also includes descriptions of states' educational policies and programs, based on a survey conducted this past summer.

These include such information as the number of required school days each year and state requirements for teacher preparation and certification.

In addition, the report provides brief descriptions of "effective schooling programs."

Copies of the report will be mailed to approximately 200 to 300 policymakers, including legislators, governors, and members of state boards of education.

Mr. Selden estimated that the council spent $60,000 to $80,000 to produce the report. In future years, he said, the assessment center's activities might include tracking the career success of students who have finished high school; state-by-state comparisons of the dropout rate; and more detailed information on specific state policies and programs.--lo

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