Special Report
School & District Management

Methodology: How We Graded the States

December 22, 2015 2 min read

For Quality Counts 2016, the Education Week Research Center graded the states in three critical performance and data categories that have been perennial features of the publication’s report card: the Chance-for-Success Index, the K-12 Achievement Index, and school finance. These three sections are comprised of 39 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. The overall state score is computed by taking the average of the three individual section grades, with each category carrying equal weight.

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

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