Quality Counts 2011: Uncertain Forecast: Education Adjusts to a New Economic Reality
Published Online: January 5, 2011
Published in Print: January 13, 2011, as Methodology


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About the State Policy Survey

To collect information on state education policies for Quality Counts 2011, the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center sent surveys to the chief state school officers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The surveys, distributed electronically on June 30, 2010, included sections regarding transitions and alignment, school finance, and the impact of the economy on education.

Respondents were asked to answer the questions and provide appropriate documentation to verify that the reported policies were in place at the time of the survey or for the 2010-11 school year. Such documentation might include state statutes, administrative rules, or Web links for information available online.

To ensure that answers were accurate and that consistent standards were applied uniformly across the states, EPE Research Center staff members carefully evaluated each state’s responses and documentary evidence over a 15-week period. That process often included discussions with the respondents. In the absence of documentation, the center did not award credit or assume the policy was in place.

Between Sept. 23 and Oct. 22, 2010, the EPE Research Center sent each chief state school officer a completed survey indicating the state’s initial responses and the independent determinations by the center based on the available evidence. Officials in the state were asked to review the final answers and supply any corrections or changes that could be supported by additional documentation.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia participated in the survey. The EPE Research Center would like to thank the many dedicated individuals at state education agencies who generously contributed their time and effort in providing information for this year’s report. The Quality Counts editors and the center staff hope this examination of policies across the states will inform the efforts of researchers, legislators, policymakers, and practitioners.

How We Graded the States

For Quality Counts 2011, the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center graded the states based on results from 53 distinct indicators spanning four performance and policy categories. Those data were based on original analyses of state and federal data by the EPE Research Center as well as the center’s annual policy survey conducted during the summer of 2010. Survey responses were carefully verified with documentation, such as a state statute or other evidence provided by the state. States receive credit only for policy indicators that are determined to be in place based on the center’s review of the documentation provided.

Quality Counts 2011 presents newly updated scores and letter grades for the states in four critical areas. The Chance-for-Success Index, the K-12 Achievement Index, and school finance grades, respectively, capture key aspects of a state’s broad educational environment, school performance, and the level and equitability of school funding. The fourth updated category focuses on policies related to transitions and alignment from one segment of the educational pipeline to the next.

This year’s report also includes the states’ overall, summative letter grades and scores. These grades incorporate the most recent information available from all six categories that make up Quality Counts’ full policy-and-performance framework. Results for the teaching profession and the standards, assessments, and accountability sections were last updated for Quality Counts 2010. The overall state score is computed by taking the average of the six individual section grades, with each category carrying equal weight.

As is customary, indicators related to this year’s special focus—education and the economy—are not graded. The scoring rubric used to grade within a particular category depends on whether that category consists of numerical measures or policy indicators. For the former, we employ a best-in-class approach for grading; for the latter, a policy-implementation tally.

Best-in-Class Grading: Chance for Success, K-12 Achievement, School Finance

Categories consisting of numerical indicators—Chance for Success, the K-12 Achievement Index, and school finance—are scored using a best-in-class rubric. Under this approach, the leading state on a particular indicator receives 100 points, and other states earn points in proportion to the gaps between themselves and the leader.

This calculation is straightforward for indicators with a clearly bounded measurement scale. Examples of such indicators might be the zero-to-100-point scale for the percent of students proficient in reading, or states’ per-pupil expenditures expressed in positive dollar amounts.

But some of the indicators—such as those related to the equity of education spending—use more-complex scales for which minimum or maximum values are not as clearly defined. For such indicators, we evaluate a particular state based on its performance relative to the minimum and maximum values on that indicator. Those indicators are scored on a 50-point base, meaning that all states start with 50 points rather than zero.

To compute a state’s score for a given category, we average points across the applicable set of indicators. On a best-in-class scale, a state’s overall score for a category can be gauged against an implicit standard where 100 points would correspond to a state that finished first in the nation on each and every measure.

Policy Grading: Transitions and Alignment

The indicators reported in the Transitions and Alignment section of Quality Counts 2011 consist of non-numerical measures showing whether a state has implemented a particular policy or program. The three subcategories in this policy-oriented section are scored on a 50-point base, with a state’s score reflecting the percent of tracked policies that it has implemented. The scores and grades for major policy sections are calculated by averaging subcategory scores. For the transitions and alignment section, a state that has enacted all policies would receive a perfect score of 100 points.

The Grading Scale

Using the scoring rules described above, each state receives a numerical score for each of the indicator categories. After rounding scores to the closest whole-number values, we assign letter grades based on a conventional grading scale, as follows:

A = 93 to 100

A-minus = 90 to 92

B-plus = 87 to 89

B = 83 to 86

B-minus = 80 to 82

C-plus = 77 to 79

C = 73 to 76

C-minus = 70 to 72

D-plus = 67 to 69

D = 63 to 66

D-minus = 60 to 62

F = Below 60

Vol. 30, Issue 16, Page 53

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