The Echo Chamber: Quality Counts 2007

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Jack O'Connell, California State Superintendent

"I commend Education Week for significantly expanding the focus and context of its annual Quality Counts report. This report recognizes that student success and the success of our society in the future rests not just the quality of our K-12 education system but with many partners working together to prepare students for the future, from preschool through college, in and out of the classroom."

[UNKNOWN]

Terry Bergeson, Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction

"I'm excited about the K-12 academic index and our ranking there. I'm also happy that they're looking at outcomes and at a preschool-to-20 system. In a sense, it's where we're trying to go in Washington. It shows an understanding of the importance of early learning and the 'preparation gap,' how important kids coming to school ready to learn is to the K-12 system, and how college success is linked to what we do in K-12. It's a recognition of the whole system, from a kid's viewpoint, and a much better way to measure. They're starting to look at direction and indicators that we should be watching to improve the outcomes for students at all points in their lives. It fits where Washington Learns is going."

Liam Julian in The Education Gadfly

The Chance-for-Success Index is defeatist, flawed, and largely ridiculous. It tells us nothing about the states it purportedly evaluates (Florida and California are ranked below Alaska--are we really supposed to buy that?). And states aren't the right unit of measure for this demographic information anyway; are we supposed to believe that folks who live in inner-city Baltimore or Newark are likelier to succeed than those in the Nashville or Houston suburbs?

The Chance-for Success Index is a mess. Evaluating states not by the education policies they implement or the student learning gains they achieve, but by coarse, demographic data only gives comfort to an education establishment desperate to blame "poverty" for its failings. It's the antithesis of standards-based reform. Let's hope the focus of Quality Counts 2007 is merely part of an off-year, not the start of a repudiation of today's most promising reform strategy.

Bob Wise, President, Alliance for Excellent Education

“From Cradle to Career demonstrates that education is a continual process, not a series of segmented steps. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and without a path paved by investment all along the way, students are at risk of falling behind and falling down. At the federal level, investment is made at the very beginning and the very end of a student’s educational journey. Diminished attention to those years in between – the middle and high school years – has resulted in diminishing returns, including a high dropout rate and poorly prepared high school graduates."

“All students, at every age and level, deserve a consistently delivered, high-quality education. This report helps to illustrate that investments are needed at each checkpoint in the pursuit of success. Only then can all our students reach their potential and succeed in life.”

The Education Trust

The perversions in the Quality Counts approach are clear. For example, Colorado, which gets points for having one of the highest rates of adult educational attainment, is average in terms of college-going and ranks 29th in the nation in terms of six-year graduation rates for first-time, full-time freshmen. Iowa, on the other hand, gets no credit for adult educational attainment, but is above average college-going and 3rd in the nation in terms of its six-year graduation rate.

So kudos to Education Week for pressing readers of Quality Counts to look at education as a continuum, from pre-K through college. Kudos, too, for reminding readers that the work of schools takes place in a broader context of children’s lives.

But the Chance for Success Index needs some work. Instead of signaling just how important the work of schools truly is and giving educators and education policymakers in each state feedback on what they’ve accomplished with the students they have, Education Week added to the sense that “demographics are destiny.” And that defeat for some students—and educators—is all but inevitable.


Select editorials

'Chance' report should concern - Montgomery Advertiser

Before and after school says - Bangor Daily News

Chance-for-success ranking doesn't tell whole story - Appleton Post-Crescent

Follow Virginia's lead - Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Quality Counts is produced with support from the Pew Center on the States.

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