For Quality Counts 2015, the Education Week Research Center graded the states in two critical performance and data categories that have been perennial features of the publication’s report card: the Chance-for-Success Index and school finance. These two sections are comprised of 21 distinct indicators based on original analyses of state and federal data.
This year’s report also includes the states’ overall, summative letter grades and scores. These grades incorporate the most recent information available from all three categories that make up Quality Counts’ full report-card framework, including results for the K-12 Achievement Index from Quality Counts 2014. The overall state score is computed by taking the average of the three individual section grades, with each category carrying equal weight. As a special feature for this year’s report, the research center’s Early Education Index provides states’ letter grades and numerical scores based on eight indicators related to preschool and kindergarten education. The results of the Early Education Index are not included in the summative grades presented in this year’s report.
The Chance-for-Success Index, Early Education 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