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Education

Nation Earns a C on Quality Counts Report Card

December 30, 2016 4 min read
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The 21st annual edition of Quality Counts — Under Construction: Building on ESSA’s K-12 Foundation — continues Education Week’s long-standing tradition of grading the states on their performance. The overall grades for the nation and the states are the average of scores on the three separate indices tracked by the report.

National Overview

This year, the nation earns an overall score of 74.2 out of 100 points and posts a grade of C on the Quality Counts report card. Diving into the findings for the three graded indices, the nation earns its highest mark — a C-plus — on the Chance-for-Success Index. In School Finance, the average state receives a C, while for the K-12 Achievement Index the nation posts a C-minus. More details on results in these categories are reported below.

Chance for Success

The Education Week Research Center developed the Chance-for-Success Index to better understand the role that education plays in promoting positive outcomes across an individual’s lifetime. Based on an original state-by-state analysis, this index combines information from 13 indicators that span a person’s life from cradle to career. Those indicators fall into three sub-sections: early foundations, school years, and adult outcomes.

Overall, the top state on the Chance-for-Success Index is Massachusetts, with a score of 91.0 and a letter grade of A-minus. At the other end of the spectrum, New Mexico receives the lowest score at 66.4, a D.

For early foundations, which examines factors that help children get off to a good start, New Hampshire earns the highest mark at 98.8 or a grade of an A. New Mexico is the lowest-scoring state, with a score of 71.3 and a grade of C-minus.

Massachusetts tops the nation for the school years, a sub-category focusing on metrics related to pre-k enrollment through postsecondary participation. It posts a score of 92.1, which corresponds to a grade of A-minus. By comparison, New Mexico gets the lowest score at 61.8, a D-minus.

In the area of adult outcomes, based on postsecondary educational attainment and workforce indicators, the District of Columbia earns the highest score of 99.1 or an A. By contrast, West Virginia receives the lowest mark, a 67.5 or a D-plus.

School Finance

The school finance analysis examines two critical aspects of school spending. Overall, the top state in school finance is Wyoming, with a score of 89.5 and a letter grade of A-minus. At the other end of the spectrum, Idaho receives the lowest score at 58.9, an F.

Of the eight indicators in this category, four assess school spending patterns, while the remaining metrics gauge equity in the distribution of funding across the districts within each state.

Across the spending indicators, Vermont finishes first with an A and a score of 95.0. Utah receives the lowest score at 38.1, an F.

On the equity measures, Florida’s score of 91.9 tops the nation and results in an A-minus. Alaska records a C and a score of 74.1, the lowest in the nation.

The District of Columbia and Hawaii do not receive finance grades because they are single-district jurisdictions.

K-12 Achievement

The K-12 Achievement Index examines 18 distinct achievement measures related to reading and math performance, high school graduation rates, and the results of Advanced Placement exams. The index assigns equal weight to current levels of performance and changes over time. It also places an emphasis on equity, by examining both poverty-based achievement gaps and progress in closing those gaps. The results of the K-12 Achievement Index reported here are from the Quality Counts 2016 report and have not been updated.

Overall, the top state in K-12 Achievement is Massachusetts, with a score of 85.2 and a letter grade of B. At the other end of the spectrum, Mississippi receives the lowest score at 60.0, a D-minus.

Indicators in the index can be broken down into three sub-categories: status, change, and equity.

Measures in the status sub-category evaluate a state’s current performance. Massachusetts earns an A with a score of 94.8 on this set of metrics. That result leads the nation. By contrast, Mississippi receives a grade of F and a score of 41.7, the lowest in the nation.

The change sub-category examines a state’s improvement over time. In this area, the District of Columbia, the national leader, posts a B and a score of 86.5. South Dakota, with a score of 57.6 and a letter grade of F, places last in the nation.

In the equity sub-section, states are graded based on achievement gaps between low-income students and their more affluent peers. New York finishes as the national leader on those poverty-gap measures. Its score stands at 92.2, which corresponds to a grade of A-minus. On the other end of the scale, the District of Columbia receives a 50.0 and an F, the lowest nationally.

The nation’s 2017 Highlights Report includes summarized results based on each of the nearly-40 indicators that make up Quality Counts’ overall grading rubric. Tables with the full results are available in PDF form below:

- Grading Summary
- Chance for Success
- School Finance
- K-12 Achievement

View more 2017 reports on states and the nation >

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