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Just Got My Report Card

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Grading the states on their efforts to improve public education has been a hallmark of Quality Counts since it was launched by Education Week in 1997. Last year we took a hiatus from grading to reassess some categories (finance and teaching), and to introduce a couple of new indexes (Chance for Success and K-12 Achievement).

Grading is back in 2008. But there are some key differences between this year’s report and previous editions (which makes comparing state grades over time like comparing apples and oranges). As always, we’re grading on the implementation of state policies in several key areas – this year adding alignment policies to the mix. For the first time ever, we’re also grading states on student performance outcomes.

While Quality Counts has changed significantly over the years, the reason for grading the states has remained constant. Grading is a useful way to help readers get their heads around a very large amount of information—more than 150 different data points. That said, we intend the grades to be the beginning of a meaningful conversation about education and public policy, certainly not the final word. There are countless stories and possible discussions behind each grade we give.

State Leaders Respond to Grades

Now put yourself in the shoes of the state superintendent. Each year, Quality Counts comes out and points out your state’s strengths and weaknesses, and how well your state is doing compared to all other states. How do you respond?

Paul Pastorek, State Education Superintendent, Louisiana:

"This report confirms what we already know. As compared to other states, our steady and positive improvement of academic achievement simply isn't enough" (News Star/Associated Press, January 10, 2008).

Jo O’Brien, Assistant Education Commissioner in Colorado:

“We’re not defensive about this. We find it interesting and rather helpful. When we saw we got a D (in one category), even though you want to cringe, we kind of want to say, ‘You know what? This is helpful. This is a report that we think has integrity.’ And we would agree it is commensurate with where state legislators and policymakers—and where the Department of Education and the state board (of education)—think we also need to work” (Rocky Mountain News, January 10, 2008).

Peter McWalters, Commissioner of Education, Rhode Island:

"I know we did not receive high scores in several of the categories, but I like the questions they are asking" (Providence Journal, January 10, 2008).

Patti Harrington, State Superintendent, Utah:

"I think the report reinforces in some ways what parents already know. Shining flashlights in areas that are dark and troubled is a good practice. These reports help us to understand how we're viewed by a third party" (Salt Lake Tribune, January 9, 2008).

Stan Johnson, Assistant Commissioner, Missouri:

"The whole grading system depends on how well your state aligns to their established criteria. I’m not being critical of this, but it’s always good to look at different resources and information. If you look at other factors, such as ACT scores, Missouri fares quite well." (Columbia Tribune, January 10, 2008).

Jack O'Connell, Superintendent of Public Instruction, California:

"Once again, this report indicates that despite our highly regarded standards, California faces many challenges and must invest more and work harder to ensure all students are successful in achieving to those standards" (Whittier Daily News, January 14, 2008).

2 Comments

I really think the overall state of public education in this country is pathetic. We're supposed to be the best company in the world. We're supposed to lead the way. This report card is embarrassing to say the least. I guess it's to be expected, education doesn't get the funding required to run a quality education system. We are continually dumbing down the curriculum so students can feel good about themselves. A friend of mine teaches 8th grade English. She has students in that can barely read at the 4th grade level, and only about a dozen of her 170+ students can read at the 8th grade level. Somehow these kids made it to the 8th grade. God forbid we should fail kids that cannot do the work at their grade level. We wouldn't want to hurt their precious little self-esteem. The real world is a harsh and unforgiving place, these kids need to learn the basic skill they'll need to survive. They don't understand basic concepts such as follow through and work ethic. Unless we turn the education system around pretty quickly or our status as a world super power could be in dire jeopardy.

The United States is the leader of the Free World. Or is it? You would never know it by it's poor Education Performance. I'm from California and unfortunately live for the time being live in Arizona and comparing the two states, California is ahead of Arizona in my opinion but not by much. Both are mediocre at best. In my opinion it is not because of lack of funds, MA spends more than double what CA or AZ does on each student. I think it has everything to do with the lack of leadership and motivation at the district levels which in turn filters down to the schools. District Supervisors, from my experience, want to just pass the kids through the system similar to a dog breeder that is nothing more than a "puppy mill". I have personally squared off with the supervisor and his assistants on more than one occation. Mediocrity is all they are looking for so the end result is what you see on this report card. They refuse to spend the money that is needed, especially for special needs kids. Special needs kids are at the mercy of the districts. Most don't want them so the provide little or no services these kids are entitled to by the law. The only way to get these people, the disticts and the supervisors, moving forward is to theathen them with legal action to get what your children need. It should not have to be this way either. For goodness sakes, this is the United States of America not some insignificant third world country that nobody knows about.

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