Education Week’s Farewell to Quality Counts: A New Focus for a New Era

When the inaugural Quality Counts report was published in 1997, state policymakers across the nation had just started to adopt the key tenets of standards-based reform, a movement that called for states to establish academic content standards defining what students should learn, assess their mastery of those skills through standardized testing, and then hold schools accountable for the results. Education Week launched Quality Counts as a comprehensive report card grading the states on progress in enacting those central assessment and accountability policies, along with measures regarding school finance and teacher quality.

The development of the report card was prompted by the 1996 National Education Summit, where the nation’s governors issued a policy statement declaring their commitment to being “held accountable for progress … toward improving student achievement in core subject areas” and outlining the need for an “external, independent, nongovernmental effort to measure and report each state’s annual progress.” From its beginnings as a landmark effort to respond to the governors’ call for a yearly progress report, Quality Counts held leaders accountable for their results in K-12 education for 25 years. The annual scorecard has been cited by governors in their state-of-the-state addresses, by news outlets, and by advocacy groups across the ideological spectrum.

From the start, high-quality data for an evaluation of state policy was not always widely available. The initial 1997 report highlighted 21 critical indicators that states did not collect or publicly report. The EdWeek Research Center—which was created to conduct the analysis for Quality Counts—helped fill the information gap by honing a meticulous process for surveying state education agencies about their policies.

Throughout its history, Quality Counts evolved and adapted to the shifting education landscape. As a flurry of policy adoption prompted by the implementation of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act caused many of the assessment and accountability policies Quality Counts was designed to track to effectively become the law of the land, Education Week’s researchers devised new indices gauging states’ success in K-12 student achievement and in providing education-related opportunities to residents throughout their lifetimes. In addition to the graded indicators, the reports featured in-depth journalism on major trends and forces impacting educators, such as new gauges of teacher quality, the Common Core State Standards, and the Great Recession of 2008.

Now, as K-12 educators face new and unprecedented challenges stemming from the academic and social impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Education Week has decided to discontinue Quality Counts in favor of research, journalism, and analysis that best serves the K-12 field’s needs today. The EdWeek Research Center has expanded its data collection and projects to a broader range of resources for educators and policymakers and will continue to work with Education Week reporters on unique data-driven journalism examining student motivation, social-emotional learning, education technology, and other critical topics.

Contact the Research Center

Inquire about grant-funded studies, market research, partnerships, and more.