Published Online: January 4, 2005
Published in Print: January 6, 2005, as How Education Week Graded the States

How Education Week Graded the States

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Student Achievement | Standards and Accountability
Efforts to Improve Teacher Quality | School Climate | Resources

For Quality Counts 2005, the Education Week Research Center compiled data on more than 100 indicators across five categories. We collected much of the data through an annual policy survey conducted during the summer and fall of 2004. Each state’s responses were carefully verified with documentation, such as a state statute or other evidence provided by the state. We did not grant credit to states unable to document that the policies we track are in place.

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In the state-by-state tables, ungraded columns are beige and are provided for additional information. We did not grade states in the student-achievement category because the presentation of the data is sufficient to gauge state performance. To arrive at a grade for the other four categories, we assigned points to each column of data or information. For columns that contain information on state policies, we assigned letter grades based on whether the state had adopted such policies, and then granted points according to the following scale: An A was worth 100 points; a B, 85 points; a C, 75 points; a D, 65 points; and an F, 50 points. For columns that contain numerical data, such as percentages, we assigned points based on specific criteria detailed below.

After obtaining the number of points for each column, we calculated the overall grade for each state in each category, using a formula that gives greater weight to certain columns. The formula for each category yields an overall number grade for each state, from 0 to 100. We then assigned overall letter grades based on the following scale: 93 to 100 percent = A; 90 to 92 percent = A-minus; 87 to 89 percent = B-plus; 83 to 86 percent = B; 80 to 82 percent = B-minus; 77 to 79 percent = C-plus; 73 to 76 percent = C; 70 to 72 percent = C-minus; 67 to 69 percent = D-plus; 63 to 66 percent = D; 60 to 62 percent = D-minus; below 60 percent = F. Here, in greater detail, is how we graded the states in each category:


STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT

Education Week ranked the states and the District of Columbia by the percent of students who scored at or above the “proficient” level on each of four National Assessment of Educational Progress exams. Ties were ranked alphabetically.


STANDARDS AND ACCOUNTABILITY

Weighting: The first column, indicating the adoption of standards, counts for 15 percent of the grade. The four columns indicating whether the standards are clear, specific, and grounded in academic content together count for 25 percent of the overall grade. The assessment columns count for 30 percent of the grade. The five school accountability indicators—report cards, ratings, assistance, sanctions, and rewards—together count for the remaining 30 percent of a state’s grade.

Standards: In the first column, a state that has adopted standards in the four core subjects (English, mathematics, science, and social studies/history) received an A. If a state has adopted standards in three subjects, it received a B; in two subjects, a C; and in no subjects, an F. To grade the clarity and specificity of standards, we relied on data provided by the American Federation of Teachers. The AFT rated state standards in the four core subjects in each of three grade spans—elementary, middle, and high school—for a total of 12 separate ratings per state. To convert the ratings into a number grade, we divided the total number of ratings for which a state met the AFT’s criteria by 12.

Assessments: States received 1 point for each of five types of student-assessment instruments (multiple-choice, short-answer, extended-response in English, extended-response in other subjects, and portfolio) used for each grade span (elementary, middle, and high school), for a possible total of 15 points. States earning 11 or more points received 100 percent in this section. States earning less than the 11-point benchmark were given percentages based on the total points earned (i.e., 10 of 11 = 91 percent, 9 of 11 = 82 percent, 8 of 11 = 73 percent, and so forth). States received 1 point for the use of an aligned standards-based test in each of the four core subjects, again for each of the three grade spans, for a possible total of 12 points. The total earned was divided by 12 to arrive at a percentage of the grade earned in this section.

School Accountability: A state earned an A for each component of a school accountability system that it had in place, and an F for each component that was lacking. The five components graded were report cards, ratings (based on adequate yearly progress, as calculated for the federal No Child Left Behind Act, or state criteria), assistance, sanctions, and rewards. All details related to those policies are included as additional information only.


EFFORTS TO IMPROVE TEACHER QUALITY

Weighting: The indicators for teacher education and qualifications make up 35 percent of the total grade. Teacher assessment is worth 30 percent. The section on professional support and training is worth 20 percent. Accountability for teacher quality constitutes the remaining 15 percent.

Teacher Education and Qualifications: The first two columns together are worth 20 percent of the subgrade. We defined “major” as either requiring an academic-content major or at least 30 semester hours in the main subject to be taught. States that require all high school teachers to meet such standards for their initial teaching licenses earned an A. Several states require teachers to earn both a major and a minor, resulting in certification in two academic subjects; those states also earned an A. Other states that require teachers to earn a major but allow them to receive additional content-area endorsements by completing a minimum of a minor received an A as well. States that require a minimum of a minor in the subject to be taught, or a minimum number of semester hours between 12 and 24, earned a B. States without major or minor requirements for every core subject to be taught earned an F. States that require teacher-candidates to demonstrate subject-matter expertise by graduating from approved teacher education programs in their subjects or by meeting state standards and competencies for their subjects also did not receive credit. We graded state requirements for middle school teachers on the same scale.

States earned an A for the next indicator if the percentage of secondary school teachers with majors in the subjects they teach is higher than 80 percent. If the percentage is higher than 60 percent, but below 81 percent, states earned a B. States with higher than 40 percent but lower than 61 percent received a C. And any state with fewer than 41 percent of its secondary teachers with majors in the subjects they teach received an F for this indicator, which is worth 40 percent of the subsection on teacher education and qualifications.

States that require a minimum of 12 weeks or more of student teaching during teacher preparation earned an A. For any requirement under 12 weeks, states earned a C. States that require semester hours of student teaching, not time requirements, also received a C. States with no minimum requirements for student teaching received an F. For other kinds of clinical experiences, states that require teacher-preparation programs to provide prospective teachers with a specified amount of time in the classroom prior to student teaching earned an A. States that have no such requirement received an F. The two clinical-experience columns together are worth 30 percent of the subgrade.

States requiring participants in all state-financed or -regulated alternative-route programs to demonstrate subject-matter expertise before they enter their own classrooms, either by passing tests or by obtaining minimum amounts of coursework in their subject areas, earned an A. States that do not finance or regulate alternative routes at all, or have one or more alternative routes that do not require participants to demonstrate knowledge of their subjects on tests or through coursework, received an F. This indicator counts for the remaining 10 percent of the grade for this subsection.

Teacher Assessment: States that require all candidates for both high school and middle school teaching positions to pass tests of subject knowledge and that require teacher-candidates at any grade level to pass subject-specific pedagogy tests earned an A. States with only two of those three requirements earned a B, and states with only one of those requirements earned a C. States that require prospective teachers to pass only a test of basic skills or general knowledge received a D. And those that do not require any assessment for earning an initial teaching license received an F. This indicator counts as 60 percent of the teacher-assessment subgrade.

States that require novice teachers to pass portfolio assessments of their classroom teaching for second-stage licenses, and that score the portfolios or train the individuals that score them, earned an A. States that base such performance assessments only on classroom observations or videotaped lessons received a B. States that do not administer centralized performance assessments or train the individuals that score such assessments, but do require new teachers to be evaluated by a local team of education professionals, earned a C. All other states received an F. This indicator counts for the remaining 40 percent of the teacher-assessment subgrade.

Professional Support and Training: States that require all new teachers to participate in a mentoring program, and that provide money to support such programs, received an A. Those that do not received an F. This column is worth half the grade for the subsection. States that have written professional-development standards for teachers and require districts or schools to set aside time for teachers to take part in professional development earned an A. States that either have standards or require time to be set aside earned a B; states that do neither received an F. These indicators together are worth 15 percent of the subgrade for professional support and training. States that finance professional development earned an A; those that don’t received an F. This indicator is worth 25 percent of the subsection.

States earned a B for providing at least one incentive to teachers who earn certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, including waiving licensure regulations for those who hold such certification, providing financial support to those who seek it, or offering salary bonuses to those who earn it. States that offer both licensure and financial incentives earned an A. Those states that offer no incentive at all received an F. This indicator counts for 10 percent of the subgrade.

Accountability for Teacher Quality: There are two ways that states earned an A for holding teacher-training programs accountable for their performance. States received an A if they: 1) publish the passing rates of teacher education graduates or publish report cards for teacher education institutions statewide, and identify low-performing teacher-training programs, or 2) hold teacher-training programs accountable for the performance of graduates in a classroom setting, regardless of whether they publish passing rates, publish report cards, or identify low-performing programs. States that just publish report cards for institutions received a C. States that only publish the passing rates of teacher education programs, and states that only identify low-performing teacher-training programs, received an F. The states that employ none of those four approaches also received an F. Those four indicators are worth 40 percent of the subsection.

The next three columns of this section show whether states have policies in place to curb out-of-field teaching. States received an A if they discourage out-of-field teaching in two of three ways: 1) by imposing a ban or cap on the number of out-of-field teachers; 2) by imposing a ban or cap on the number of teachers with emergency licenses; and 3) by notifying all parents if their children are taught by an uncertified or out-of-field teacher. States that have just one of those policies earned a B. States that have none received an F. The three out-of-field columns together are worth 20 percent of the subgrade.

The last six columns of this section track whether states’ school report cards include information on the number and/or percentage of fully licensed or certified teachers, new teachers, teachers with emergency licenses, out-of-field teachers, highly qualified teachers, and classes taught by teachers who are deemed highly qualified. If a state’s report card includes the inverse of one of those numbers, such as the percent of teachers who are not fully licensed or certified, the state still received credit. States earned an A for the six columns if their report cards include three or more of the indicators. If their report cards include two of the indicators, states earned a B. States that have report cards with only one of the indicators received a C. States with report cards providing no such information received an F. The report card indicators are worth the remaining 40 percent of the accountability section.


SCHOOL CLIMATE

Weighting: The four indicators for engagement count for 15 percent of the grade. The first six indicators in school safety together count for 20 percent of the grade. The five indicators in parent involvement are worth 15 percent of the grade. The first three choice and autonomy indicators make up 20 percent of the overall climate grade. School-size indicators and class-size indicators are both worth 10 percent of the grade. The remaining 10 percent of the grade comes from two indicators under school facilities: whether the state has a mechanism for financing school construction, and whether the state tracks the condition of all school facilities.

Engagement: For the engagement subgrade, the states and the District of Columbia were ranked from highest to lowest on each of the first three indicators. The states were then divided into approximate quintiles, with the top 10 states receiving an A for the column. The next 10 states received a B, the next 11 received a C, the next 10 a D, and the bottom 10 states an F. The scores for the three indicators were averaged and constitute 10 percent of the overall school climate grade. States that conduct school climate surveys received an A; those that do not received an F. This indicator was worth 5 percent of the school climate grade.

School Safety: States with a check indicating that school report cards include school safety information received an A; otherwise, the state received an F. States that had either enacted a bullying/harassment-prevention program or had adopted legislation that pertains to school bullying/harassment received an A. If a state had neither a bullying/harassment-prevention program nor legislation, it received an F. States that have enacted legislation to enforce specific penalties for incidents of school violence received an A; otherwise, the state received an F. The three resulting scores were averaged and represent 10 percent of the overall grade. For the next two school safety indicators, the states were ranked from highest to lowest on each. Again, states were divided into approximate quintiles, and the resulting scores of the two indicators were averaged, making up 10 percent of the school climate grade.

Parent Involvement: States with a check indicating their school report cards must include information on parent involvement received an A. States without that requirement received an F. For the next four indicators, the states were ranked from highest to lowest on each of the four indicators and were divided into approximate quintiles. The scores from all five indicators under the parent-involvement subgrade were averaged and are worth 15 percent of the overall school climate grade.

Choice and Autonomy: A state with a statewide open-enrollment policy, meaning the policy is interdistrict and mandatory, received an A. States with limited open enrollment, meaning their policies are interdistrict but not mandatory or are intradistrict and mandatory, received a C. States with no open-enrollment policy received an F. The grade for open enrollment counted for 10 percent of the overall school climate grade. For states that have enacted charter school legislation, grades for the strength of the legislation are those given by the Center for Education Reform and are reported by Education Week using a standard 4-point scale. States with a 4 received an A, states with a 3 received a B, states with a 2 received a C, states with a 1 received a D, and states with a zero or those without a charter law received an F. The grade for the state charter school law counted for 10 percent of the overall school climate grade.

School Size: For each of the three indicators under school size, the states were ranked from highest to lowest. The 50 states and the District of Columbia were then divided into approximate quintiles, with the top 10 receiving an A for the column. The next 10 received a B, the next 11 received a C, the next 10 a D, and the bottom 10 an F. The scores across each of the three columns were averaged and are worth 10 percent of the overall grade.

Class Size: States that require school report cards to include information on class size received an A; those that do not received an F. States that have enacted class-size-reduction programs or that limit class size by law or that have a reported elementary school class size of 20 or fewer pupils received an A. For those states with more than 20 students in a class, the average number of students in the class was divided into 20 to obtain a point value for the column. For instance, Arizona has a reported average elementary-class size of 24.5 (20/24.5 = 81.6 points). States without a class-size-reduction effort and an average elementary-class size higher than 20 received an F. The average across all three columns counted for 10 percent of the overall school climate grade.

School Facilities: States that track the condition of all school facilities received an A; those that do not received an F. States that have a means for providing money for school construction received an A; those that do not received an F. The scores in each of the two columns were averaged and count for 10 percent of the overall school climate grade.


RESOURCES

Weighting: Given the current debate about what an “adequate” education costs, Education Week did not grade states on adequacy this year. Instead, we ranked the states and the District of Columbia on several key indicators measuring their efforts to finance public education. For equity, we also changed the way we grade the states. Based on the advice of our Quality Counts 2005 advisory board, we decided to focus our grading in this section on outcome measures only. Therefore, we no longer use the state-equalization effort to measure the equity of school finance systems. Now, the wealth-neutrality score, the McLoone Index, and the coefficient of variation each count for one-third of the grade.

Equity: To calculate the wealth-neutrality score, we used a regression model that examines the relationship between school revenue and property wealth. The dependent variable in the model was adjusted state and local revenue per pupil. The variable was adjusted to reflect both geographic cost differences relative to each state and student needs (i.e., poor students = 1.2, and special education students = 1.9). The figure was also indexed so that each state’s average per-pupil figure was 1. The single independent variable in the model was aggregate value of residential-property wealth per pupil, also weighted to reflect cost differences and student needs and indexed to the state average. The coefficient for the independent variable from the regression serves as the wealth-neutrality score. It shows the extent to which total revenue (state and local) can be explained by property wealth.

For the wealth-neutrality score, we used the following grading benchmarks: less than .020 is 100 points; .020 to .029 earned 92 points; .030 to .039, 88 points; .040 to .069, 85 points; .070 to .079, 82 points; .080 to .099, 78 points; .100 to .129, 75 points; .130 to .149, 72 points; .150 to .169, 68 points; .170 to .189, 65 points; .190 to .199, 62 points; .200 or greater, 50 points.

We calculated the McLoone Index by first computing the figure on median-level expenditure per pupil for each state (adjusted to reflect cost differences and student needs). Then we computed the total amount of money being spent on students whose per-pupil-expenditure figure was below the median. Next we divided that figure by the total amount that would be spent if every pupil below the median had the median-level expenditure, to arrive at a percentage. For the McLoone Index, we used the following grading benchmarks: 98 to 100 percent is 100 points; 97 to 97.99 percent earned 92 points; 96.5 to 96.99 percent, 88 points; 95 to 96.49 percent, 85 points; 94.5 to 94.99 percent, 82 points; 94 to 94.49 percent, 78 points; 93 to 93.99 percent, 75 points; 92.5 to 92.99 percent, 72 points; 92 to 92.49 percent, 68 points; 91 to 91.99 percent, 65 points; 90 to 90.99 percent, 62 points; less than 90 percent, 50 points.

We calculated the coefficient of variation by dividing the standard deviation of adjusted spending per pupil across all districts in a state (adjusted to reflect cost differences and student needs) by the state’s average spending per pupil.

For the coefficient of variation, we used the following grading benchmarks: 0 to 3.9 percent variation is 100 points; 4 to 4.9 percent variation earned 92 points; 5 to 5.9 percent variation, 88 points; 6 to 8.9 percent variation, 85 points; 9 to 9.9 percent variation, 82 points; 10 to 10.9 percent variation, 78 points; 11 to 13.9 percent variation, 75 points; 14 to 14.9 percent variation, 72 points; 15 to 15.9 percent variation, 68 points; 16 to 18.9 percent variation, 65 points; 19 to 19.9 percent variation, 62 points; 20 percent or greater variation, 50 points.

See a detailed, step-by-step technical explanation of all school finance equity indicators. (Requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader.)

Vol. 24, Issue 17, Page 104

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