Special Report
Education

Methodology

January 09, 2012 5 min read
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About the State Policy Survey

To collect information on state education policies for Quality Counts 2012, the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center invited chief state school officers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to participate in the center’s annual policy survey. The study collected information on a range of state-level programs and policies including those related to the teaching profession, standards, assessments, and accountability.

The surveys, which were distributed on June 27, 2011, asked respondents to provide information about the specified policies and to furnish documentation verifying that the reported policies were in place at the time of the survey or for the 2011-12 school year. Such documentation might include state statutes, administrative rules, or Web links for information available online. Where no response or documentation was provided, research center staff attempted to locate that independently from publicly accessible records.

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 supporting documentation over a 17-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 September 21 and October 21, the EPE Research Center sent each chief state school officer a completed survey indicating, for each item, the state’s initial response and the center’s independent determination regarding the policy’s status, 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 evidence.

The EPE Research Center would like to thank state agency staff 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 2012, the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center graded the states based on results from 106 distinct indicators spanning five 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 2011. 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 2012 presents newly-updated state letter grades and scores in five critical areas. Three of these areas—the Chance-for-Success Index, the K-12 Achievement Index, and school finance—are performance and data categories. The two other areas capture policies related to the teaching profession and to standards, assessments, and accountability. 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.

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 comprise Quality Counts’ full policy-and-performance framework. Results for the transitions and alignment section were last updated for Quality Counts 2011. The overall state score is computed by taking the average of the six individual section grades, with each category carrying equal weight.

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: Standards, Assessments, and Accountability, The Teaching Profession

The indicators reported in the Standards, Assessments, & Accountability and the Teaching Profession sections of Quality Counts 2012 consist of non-numerical measures showing whether a state has implemented a particular policy or program. Each of these policy-oriented sections is comprised of three subcategories. Subcategories 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 each policy section are then calculated by averaging subcategory scores. A state that has enacted all policies would receive the 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

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