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Educational Opportunities and Performance in Massachusetts

January 21, 2020 | Updated: September 02, 2020 5 min read
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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, Massachusetts finishes second among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, with an overall score of 86.7 out of 100 points and a grade of B-plus. The nation as a whole posts a grade of C.

Diving into the findings for the three graded indices, Massachusetts earns an A-minus in the Chance-for-Success category and ranks first. The average state earns a C-plus. In School Finance, Massachusetts receives a B and ranks 10th. For the K-12 Achievement Index, it finishes first with a grade of B. 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, Massachusetts earns an A-minus in the Chance-for-Success category and ranks first. 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, Massachusetts earns an A-minus and ranks ninth. The average state posts a B.

School Years: How Are Students Faring in School?

Massachusetts receives an A for the school years, a sub-category focusing on metrics related to pre-K enrollment through postsecondary participation. It finishes first 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, Massachusetts’s grade is a B-plus. It ranks second in the nation. The national average is a C-plus.

School Finance: Grading the States on Spending and Equity

This year, Massachusetts finishes tenth among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, with an overall score of 84 out of 100 points and a grade of B. 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, Massachusetts finishes with a B compared with a national average of D. Massachusetts ranks 12th 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, Massachusetts receives a B, which places it 41st 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.

The index provides information on key questions, such as:

  • 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. Massachusetts receives an A in this area and ranks first 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, Massachusetts posts a C and ranks seventh. 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. Massachusetts’s grade on those poverty-gap measures stands at a B. Nationally, it ranks 20th 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 Massachusetts are at medium risk of learning loss when compared to other states.

In March 2024, Education Week announced the end of the Quality Counts report after 25 years of serving as a comprehensive K-12 education scorecard. In response to new challenges and a shifting landscape, we are refocusing our efforts on research and analysis to better serve the K-12 community. For more information, please go here for the full context or learn more about the EdWeek Research Center.

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