Special Report
States

Educational Opportunities and Performance in Alabama

January 21, 2020 5 min read

Based on a comprehensive analysis of data, the Quality Counts report card answers a key question: Where does my state rank for educational opportunities and performance?

States are graded and ranked in three categories: Chance for Success (January), School Finance (June), and K-12 Achievement (September). A state’s overall grade, published in September, is the average of its scores on the three separate indices tracked for the report card.

State Overview

This year, Alabama finishes 48th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, with an overall score of 69.3 out of 100 points and a grade of D-plus. The nation as a whole posts a grade of C.

Diving into the findings for the three graded indices, Alabama earns a C in the Chance-for-Success category and ranks 43rd. The average state earns a C-plus. In School Finance, Alabama receives a C-minus and ranks 36th. For the K-12 Achievement Index, it finishes 49th with a grade of D. The average state earns a grade of C in both School Finance and K-12 Achievement. More details on results in these categories are reported below.

This highlights report features data in three categories: Chance for Success, School Finance, and K-12 Achievement.

Chance for Success: Gauging Educational Opportunities

The EdWeek 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.

The index evaluates each state using a range of measuring sticks, including:

  • How educated are parents?
  • What share of 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in preschool?
  • Are K-12 students proficient in reading and math?
  • What’s the high school graduation rate?
  • What percentage of adults have steady employment?

Diving into the findings, Alabama earns a C in the Chance-for-Success category and ranks 43rd. The average state earns a C-plus.

Early Foundations: Are Kids Getting Off to a Good Start?

For early foundations, which examines factors that help children get off to a good start, Alabama earns a B-minus and ranks 38th. The average state posts a B.

School Years: How Are Students Faring in School?

Alabama receives a C-minus for the school years, a sub-category focusing on metrics related to pre-K enrollment through postsecondary participation. It finishes 45th in the nation in this area. By comparison, the nation as a whole earns a C-plus.

Adult Outcomes: Are Adults Finding Opportunities for Success?

In the area of adult outcomes, based on postsecondary educational attainment and workforce indicators, Alabama’s grade is a C-minus. It ranks 43rd in the nation. The national average is a C-plus.

School Finance: Grading the States on Spending and Equity

This year, Alabama finishes 36th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, with an overall score of 70.2 out of 100 points and a grade of C-minus. The nation as a whole posts a grade of C.

The school finance analysis examines two critical aspects of school spending. 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.

Spending: How Much Are States Devoting to Education?

The spending metrics shed light on major questions, such as:

  • What does the state spend per-pupil when adjusted for regional cost differences?
  • What percent of students are in districts with per-pupil spending at or above the U.S. average?
  • What share of total taxable resources are spent on education?

Across the spending indicators, Alabama finishes with an F compared with a national average of D. Alabama ranks 39th in the nation in this area.

Equity: How Are Funds Distributed Across Districts?

For each state, topics covered by the equity analysis include:

  • To what degree does funding for property-poor districts differ from that of their wealthier counterparts?
  • How different are the spending levels of the highest- and lowest-spending districts? ?

On the equity measures, Alabama receives a B-plus, which places it 13th in the national rankings. The nation as a whole earns a B-plus.

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 gaps and progress in closing those gaps.

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

  • What percentage of 4th and 8th graders are proficient in reading and math?
  • How has student achievement changed over time?
  • How large are gaps between low-income students and their more affluent peers? Have those gaps narrowed over time?

Status: How Are Students Performing Today?

Measures in the status sub-category evaluate a state’s current performance. Alabama receives an F in this area and ranks 49th in the nation. The average state earns a C-minus.

Change: Has State Achievement Improved Over Time?

The change sub-category examines a state’s improvement over time. In this area, Alabama posts a D and ranks 28th. The national average is a D-plus.

Equity: How Large Are Poverty-Based Gaps?

In the equity sub-section, states are graded based on disparities between low-income students and their more affluent peers. Alabama’s grade on those poverty-gap measures stands at a B-minus. Nationally, it ranks 30th in this area. The nation as a whole receives a B-minus.

Coronavirus Learning Loss Risk Index: How Might The Pandemic Affect Students?

The September installment of Quality Counts 2020 also focuses on the factors that might have placed students at greater risk for learning loss as the coronavirus pandemic forced school closures and remote learning. The EdWeek Research Center’s Coronavirus Learning Loss Risk Index measures educational opportunities during the pandemic using eight indicators of instructional support and home technology access, including an evaluation of disparities associated with household educational attainment. Based on the analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data from May 14 through May 19, students in Alabama are at medium risk of learning loss when compared to other states.

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