Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Special Report
States

Educational Opportunities and Performance in the United States

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.

National Overview

This year, the nation earns an overall score of 75.9 out of 100 points and a grade of C.

Diving into the findings for the three graded indices, the nation earns a C-plus in the Chance-for-Success category. The average state receives 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?

Overall, the top state on the Chance-for-Success Index is Massachusetts, with a score of 91.3 and a letter grade of A-minus. At the other end of the spectrum, New Mexico receives the lowest score at 67.2, a D-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, North Dakota earns the highest mark at 97.0 or a grade of A. New Mexico is the lowest-scoring state, with a score of 72.3 and a grade of C-minus.

School Years: How Are Students Faring in School?

Massachusetts tops the nation for the school years, a sub-category focusing on metrics related to pre-K enrollment through postsecondary participation. It posts a score of 93.0, which corresponds to a grade of A. By comparison, New Mexico gets the lowest score at 63.9, a D.

Adult Outcomes: Are Adults Finding Opportunities for Success?

In the area of adult outcomes, based on postsecondary educational attainment and workforce indicators, the District of Columbia earns the highest score of 99.4 or an A. By contrast, West Virginia receives the lowest mark, a 66.8 or a D-plus.

School Finance: Grading the Nation on Spending and Equity

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.

Overall, the top state in school finance is Wyoming, with a score of 92.4 and a letter grade of A-minus. At the other end of the spectrum, Idaho receives the lowest score at 62.3, a D-minus.

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, Wyoming finishes first with an A and a score of 94.1. Utah receives the lowest score at 40.7, an F.

Equity: How Are Funds Distributed Across Districts?

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, Florida’s score of 92.3 tops the nation and results in an A-minus. Alaska records a C and a score of 74.0, the lowest in the nation.

The District of Columbia and Hawaii do not receive finance grades because they are single-district jurisdictions.

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 achievement 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. The average state earns a C-minus. On the status measures, Massachusetts’ score of 96.5 tops the nation and results in an A. New Mexico records an F and a score of 47.3, the lowest in the nation.

Change: Has State Achievement Improved Over Time?

The change sub-category examines a state’s improvement over time. In this area, the national average is a D-plus. The District of Columbia, the national leader, posts an A-minus and a score of 91.9. Iowa, with a score of 57.1 and a letter grade of F, places last in the nation.

Equity: How Large Are Poverty-Based Achievement Gaps?

In the equity sub-section, states are graded based on achievement gaps between low-income students and their more affluent peers. The nation as a whole receives a B-minus. Oklahoma finishes as the national leader on those poverty-gap measures. Its score stands at 91.8, which corresponds to a grade of A. On the other end of the scale, the District of Columbia receives a 50.0 and an F, the lowest nationally.

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, the nation’s students are at medium risk of learning loss but risks vary across the states.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Special Education Teachers
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
BASE Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Director of Information Technology
Montpelier, Vermont
Washington Central UUSD

Read Next

States States Renew Efforts to Track Student Attendance as Pandemic Stretches On
With thousands of students still chronically absent from school, most states have begun to reinstate daily attendance policies.
4 min read
Image shows empty desks in a classroom.
Chris Ryan/OJO Images
States Explainer School Employees May Get Early COVID-19 Vaccinations. Here's How States Will Decide When
State and federal leaders face a host of questions in allocating the scarce vaccine even among "essential workers," like those in education.
8 min read
Illustration of medical staff administering coronavirus vaccine
RLT Images/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
States Teachers' Union Leader Nominated to Be Puerto Rico's Education Secretary
The American Federation of Teachers describes Elba Aponte Santos as "a fierce defender of public education" in Puerto Rico.
1 min read
Elba Aponte Santos
Elba Aponte Santos, the president of the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico (AMPR), an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, has been nominated to be Puerto Rico's next education secretary.
via Twitter
States States Can Wield Huge Influence Over Principal Quality. Are They Using It?
A new report identifies policy levers states already have at their disposal to better prepare principals for their jobs.
4 min read
Image shows an illustration of a man climbing a ladder, with encouragement.
iStock/Getty