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Chance for Success

Early Foundations

Family Income: Percent of dependent children (under 18 years of age) who live in above-low-income families. Low income is defined as 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which depends on the size and composition of the family. Education Week Research Center analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 2016.

Parent Education: Percent of dependent children with at least one parent who holds a two- or four-year postsecondary degree. Ibid.

Parental Employment: Percent of dependent children with at least one parent who is steadily employed, defined as working full time (at least 35 hours per week) and year-round (at least 50 weeks during the previous year). Those not in the labor force are excluded from calculations. Active-duty military service is considered participation in the labor force. Ibid.

Linguistic Integration: Percent of dependent children whose parents are fluent speakers of English. Fluency is defined as being a native speaker or speaking the language “very well.” All resident parents must be fluent in English for a family to be considered linguistically integrated. Ibid.

School Years

Preschool Enrollment: Percent of 3- and 4-year-olds who are attending preschool, based on a three-year average. Both public and private education programs are counted. Education Week Research Center analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Kindergarten Enrollment: Percent of eligible children attending public or private kindergarten programs, based on a three-year average. The size of the entering kindergarten cohort is calculated based on the number of 5- and 6-year-olds in a state. Ibid.

Elementary Reading Achievement: Percent of 4th graders in public schools who scored at or above the “proficient” level in reading on the 2017 State NAEP assessment. National Assessment of Educational Progress, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, 2017.

Middle School Mathematics Achievement: Percent of 8th graders in public schools who scored at or above the “proficient” level in mathematics on the 2017 State NAEP assessment. Ibid.

High School Graduation Rate: Percent of public high school students who graduated on time with a standard diploma for the 2015-16 school year. Quality Counts 2018 uses graduation rates calculated by states with the four-year Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR) method, as reported by the U.S. Department of Education.

Young-Adult Education: Percent of young adults (ages 18 to 24) who either are currently enrolled in a postsecondary education program or have already earned a postsecondary credential. Those still enrolled in high school programs are excluded from the calculation. Education Week Research Center analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 2016.

Adult Outcomes

Adult Educational Attainment: Percent of adults (ages 25 to 64) who have earned a postsecondary degree. Calculations include all individuals whose highest level of attained education is an associate, bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree. Ibid.

Annual Income: Percent of adults (ages 25 to 64) whose annual personal income reaches or exceeds the national median ($40,303 in 2016 dollars). Only individuals in the labor force are included in calculations. Ibid.

Steady Employment: Percent of adults (ages 25 to 64) who are steadily employed, defined as working full time (at least 35 hours per week) and year-round (at least 50 weeks during the previous year). Those not in the labor force are excluded from calculations. Active-duty military service is considered participation in the labor force. Ibid.


K-12 Achievement

Achievement Level

NAEP Mathematics 2017 (4th and 8th grades): Percent of public school students who score at or above the “proficient” level in mathematics on the 2017 State NAEP assessment. National Assessment of Educational Progress, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, 2017.

NAEP Reading 2017 (4th and 8th grades): Percent of public school students who score at or above the “proficient” level in reading on the 2017 State NAEP assessment. Ibid.

Achievement Gains

NAEP Mathematics Change 2003-2017 (4th and 8th grades): Change in NAEP scale scores for public school students between 2003 and 2017. Ibid.

NAEP Reading Change 2003-2017 (4th and 8th grades): Change in NAEP scale scores for public school students between 2003 and 2017. Ibid.

Poverty Gap

Poverty Gap (4th grade reading and 8th grade math): Scale-score difference in 2017 NAEP achievement between public school students eligible and noneligible for the National School Lunch Program. Larger values indicate wider gaps in performance with higher scores for non-eligible students. Ibid.

Poverty-Gap Change 2003-2017 (4th grade reading and 8th grade math): Change in the size of the poverty gap for public school students between 2003 and 2017. Negative values indicate a narrowing gap. Ibid.

Achieving Excellence

NAEP Mathematics 2017 Percent Advanced (8th grade): Percent of public school students who score at the “advanced” level in mathematics on the 2017 State NAEP assessment. Ibid.

NAEP Mathematics Percent Advanced Change 2003-2017 (8th grade): Change in the percent of students scoring at the NAEP “advanced” level in mathematics between 2003 and 2017. Ibid.

High School Graduation

High School Graduation Rate: Percent of public high school students who graduated on time with a standard diploma for the 2015-16 school year. Quality Counts 2018 uses graduation rates calculated by states with the four-year Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR) method, as reported by the U.S. Department of Education.

Change in Graduation Rate: Change in public high school graduation rate between 2014 and 2016. Ibid.

Advanced Placement

High AP Test Scores: Number of high AP test scores (3 or above) per 100 students in grades 11 and 12. Analysis is specific to public school students. Education Week Research Center analysis using: College Board’s AP Summary Reports 2016; U.S. Department of Education’s Common Core of Data 2016.

Change in High AP Scores: Change in the ratio of high AP scores for public school students between 2000 and 2016. Ibid.


How We Graded the States

The overall A-F letter grades for the nation and the states in Quality Counts 2018 are based on the average of scores on a traditional 100-point scale for three custom indices developed by the Education Week Research Center: Chance for Success, K-12 Achievement, and School Finance. Each category carries equal weight in the grading.

The overall grades incorporate the most recent information available for all three categories that make up Quality Counts’ full report-card framework and reflect original analyses of federal data for 39 distinct indicators.

Best In-Class Grading

The Chance-for-Success Index, 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 include the 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.

The Grading Scale

Using the scoring rules already described, 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 A-F 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. 38, Issue 03

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