- Education Week's 22nd annual Quality Counts report card — which is based on the Chance-for-Success Index, a school finance analysis and the K-12 Achievement Index (last updated in 2016) — indicates that the educational performance of the nation has improved very slightly, from 74.2 to 74.5.
- The report reflects significant disparities between states, with Massachusetts placing first in the nation for the fourth straight year with a B-plus and a score of 86.8, while Nevada places last with a D and a score of 65.
- The main influences affecting scores appear to be early-childhood education, risk factors such as poverty, education spending and financial equity, and academic factors.
The Quality Counts 2018 report card would be more complete if the K-12 Achievement Index had been updated to reflect the most recent academic scores. However, as it is, there is still a lot to unpack. And while poverty continues to affect academic scores, there is little schools can do on their own to affect that measure.
Areas that can be more easily addressed are early-childhood education efforts and grade-level reading measures, which had a significant impact on end-of-school results. For instance, the report reveals that “states with the best overall grades typically perform well across many of the metrics, but especially on indicators related to educational foundations in early childhood." Efforts to give students a strong start is credited in helping overall top-scoring states Massachusetts and New Jersey achieve those top rankings.
Academic factors had the biggest impact on scoring. The report states that “leading states tend to fare well with respect to NAEP reading and math scores, along with high school graduation rates. Massachusetts and New Hampshire—both in the top five states overall in Quality Counts—lead the nation in 4th grade reading on NAEP.” This information correlates with claims by the Campaign for Grade Level Reading that say that reading proficiency by the end of third grade is “the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success.”
It will be interesting to see how these scores change in the future as the ESSA drives states to become more involved in the determination of student success. As Education Week said, “Since the new latitude that ESSA gives state leaders to develop customized accountability systems could either help to narrow disparities across states or widen them, monitoring state performance remains critical.”