Published: August 24, 2006

Stat of the Week — Aug. 23, 2006

By the time school starts this fall, each state is required to inform parents and the general public about whether individual schools in the state have made adequate yearly progress (AYP) under the No Child Left Behind Act. However, schools in some states also receive a rating based on their state's own rating system using additional state-developed criteria. Do states’ rating systems tend to differ from the federal system and if so, how? How many states assign ratings to all of their schools based on criteria other than AYP? Where are those states located? How did they perform on the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) when compared to states without independent rating systems for schools? These are questions addressed this week in the Stat of the Week.

Stat of the Week: State-Developed School Ratings

State rating systems have received considerable attention because results under such systems may differ from AYP determinations. Under the more than four-year old federal law, states must establish AYP targets-- goals for the percentage of students reaching or exceeding the "proficient" level on state reading and math tests. In order to make AYP, a school must meet these targets not only for its overall student population but also for students in major subgroups such as low-income brackets, racial/ethnic groups, limited English-proficiency, and students with disabilities.

Independent state rating systems however may rely on overall student performance and criteria other than NCLB subgroups to assess schools, or incorporate AYP criteria in whole or in part giving individual schools letter grades, stars or other labels to indicate performance level. Florida for example, in 1999 became the first state to give all of its schools letter grades based on a point system. Schools receive one point for each percent of students scoring well on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) as well as those with annual learning gains and for producing achievement gains with the lowest performing students.

Research conducted for Quality Counts 2006 found that 28 states assigned ratings to all schools based on state-developed criteria for the 2005-06 school year. States with their own rating systems do not fall into a simple geographic pattern. In fact, as the map below shows, such systems can be found in each region of the country. However, eleven states in the South have established their own rating systems while relatively few Plains states (4) have done so. Historically, states in the South have tended to score lower on national measures of academic performance and have been more likely to pursue aggressive standards-based reform measures such as state rating systems for schools.

How They Fared in 4th Grade Reading

States with their own rating systems, on average, scored slightly below states without such systems on 2005 NAEP 4th grade reading tests. As the chart below indicates, fourth-graders in states with their own independent rating systems had an average scale score of 217 on NAEP reading tests while fourth-graders in states without such systems had an average scale score of 219. This finding helps to describe the characteristics of states with rating systems. No causal relationship, between NAEP scores and these state policies, is being suggested.

For more on state policies, please see Quality Counts 2006 or visit the Ed Counts database.