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Special Report
States From Our Research Center

Methodology & Grading Scale

September 01, 2020 3 min read
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How We Graded the States

The overall A-F letter grades in “Quality Counts 2020” are based on the average of scores on a traditional 100-point scale for three custom indices developed by the EdWeek Research Center: Chance for Success, K-12 Achievement, and School Finance. Each category carries equal weight in the grading.

The overall grades incorporate the most recent information available for all three categories that make up Quality Counts’ full report-card framework and reflect original analyses of federal data for 39 distinct indicators.

Best-in-Class Grading

The Chance for Success Index, K-12 Achievement Index, and School Finance Index 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

SOURCES & NOTES

Chance for Success
The Chance for Success Index combines information from 13 indicators intended to offer perspective on the role that education in a state plays as a person moves from early childhood through the formal pre-K-12 school system and ultimately into postsecondary education and/or the workforce.

Several indicators, such as family income and parent education, examine educational foundations in early childhood. Measures of participation and performance include reading and math scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, high school graduation rates, and other indicators. Outcomes in adulthood, such as educational attainment and annual income, form an additional component of the analysis. Most data for the index are taken from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey.

K-12 Achievement
The K-12 Achievement Index examines 18 distinct measures of reading and math performance, high school graduation, and success on Advanced Placement tests. It scores states on current performance, changes over time, and poverty-based gaps. Data for the index are largely drawn from the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress.

School Finance
The school finance analysis evaluates two dimensions of state performance: spending and equity.

To assess state spending patterns in K-12 education, the EdWeek Research Center analyzes results on four metrics: per-pupil expenditures adjusted for regional cost differences, percent of students in districts with per-pupil spending at or above U.S. average, Spending Index, and percent of total taxable resources spent on education. State expenditures are adjusted by factors such as regional cost differences to facilitate apples-to-apples comparisons.

For the equity component of the grading, the Research Center conducts an analysis to capture the degree to which education funding is equitably distributed across the districts within a state. Equity is measured by four distinct indicators: Wealth-Neutrality Score, McLoone Index, Coefficient of Variation, and Restricted Range.

The finance analysis is based on the most recent information available from federal agencies, which is from 2017.

Additional indicator-by-indicator details for all three graded categories can be found in the full Sources & Notes page, located here.

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