Special Report
School & District Management

Methodology

January 07, 2010 5 min read
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About the State Policy Survey

To collect information on state education policies for Quality Counts 2010, the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center sent surveys to the chief state school officers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The surveys, distributed electronically on June 24, 2009, included sections regarding teaching and standards, assessments, and accountability.

Respondents were asked to answer the questions and provide appropriate documentation to verify that the reported policies were in place at the time of the survey or for the 2009-10 school year. Such documentation might include state statutes, administrative rules, or Web links for information available online.

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 documentary evidence over a 12-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 Sept. 23 and Oct.15, the EPE Research Center returned to each chief state school officer a completed survey indicating the state’s initial responses and the independent determinations by the center 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 documentation.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia participated in the survey. The EPE Research Center would like to thank the many dedicated individuals at state education agencies 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 2010, the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center graded the states based on results from 88 distinct indicators spanning four 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 2009. 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 2010 assigns scores and letter grades to the states in four areas. Two of these areas—the Chance-for-Success 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. As is customary, indicators related to this year’s special focus, the movement toward common standards and assessments, are not graded. 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.

The print edition of Quality Counts 2010 does not assign overall, summative letter grades across sections. This reflects the report’s move to a modular policy survey in which individual survey sections are administered on an every-other-year basis. Summative letter grades that incorporate the most recent information from the six categories that constitute Quality Counts’ full policy-and-performance framework can be found here. Summative grades do not include the results of the Math Progress Index presented in this year’s report.

Best-in-Class Grading: Chance for Success, School Finance

Categories consisting of numerical indicators—Chance for Success 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. Although letter grades are not issued for the Math Progress Index, this section of the report also scores states using a best-in-class method. 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 mathematics, 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: The Teaching Profession; Standards, Assessments, and Accountability

The indicators reported in the two policy-oriented sections of Quality Counts 2010—the teaching profession and standards, assessments, and accountability—consist of non-numerical measures showing whether a state has implemented a particular policy or program. Within these sections, 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 major policy sections are calculated by averaging subcategory scores. For standards, assessments, and accountability and the teaching profession, a state that has enacted all policies would receive the perfect score of 100 points.

The Grading Scale

Using the 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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