Thursday, January 12, 2012

Kentucky is 14th in 2011 Quality Counts Ranking

State Leaps 20 Spots in National Education Ranking

Kentucky’s ranking in an annual grading of all states on key education indicators rose dramatically this year, placing the state 14th in the nation for its work on academic standards, the teaching profession and many other variables related to public education.

Each year, Education Week (a national publication that focuses on P-12 education) produces a special issue, “Quality Counts.” The report tracks key education indicators and grades states on their policy efforts and outcomes. Last year, Kentucky ranked 34th in the nation in this annual report.

“Kentuckians should take a great deal of pride in the Commonwealth’s standings related to P-12 education,” said Gov. Steve Beshear. “Kentucky continues to show measureable progress in education, and the rankings provided in ‘Quality Counts’ recognize the hard work of teachers, administrators, parents and community members.”

“Much of the impetus for Kentucky’s high ranking can be traced to 2009’s Senate Bill 1,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “That legislation set us on a course to become a leader nationwide, and with the support of Gov. Beshear, legislators, teachers, administrators and parents, Kentucky’s work in school accountability, teacher training, college/career readiness and stronger academic standards is moving us in the right direction.”

“Quality Counts” provides data and information about states’ efforts in six areas:

K-12 Achievement
Standards, Assessments & Accountability
Teaching Profession
School Finance
Transitions & Alignment
Chance for Success (an index that combines information from 13 indicators that cover state residents’ lives from cradle to career)

States were assigned overall letter grades based on the average of scores for the six categories. This year, Kentucky’s overall grade was C+, an improvement over last year’s grade and a higher grade than the national average, which was a C.

No states received a grade of A in this edition of “Quality Counts.” The highest-ranking state was Maryland, with a B+. Three states received B grades; five states received B- grades; and five states (including Kentucky) received C+ grades.

State Report Cards here:

The National Scene

Although economists have officially declared the “Great Recession” to be over, the nation and states continue to struggle back from the most severe economic downturn in generations and face new challenges in delivering a high-quality education to all students, according to Education Week’s annual education report card. The nation receives a C when graded across the six distinct areas of policy and performance tracked by Quality Counts, the most comprehensive ongoing assessment of the state of American education. For the third year in a row, Maryland is the top-ranked state, earning the nation’s highest overall grade, a B-plus.

Massachusetts and New York follow close behind, each receiving a B. The majority of states receive grades of C-plus or lower.

The report reintroduces its K-12 Achievement Index, which evaluates the strength of a state’s performance against 18 individual indicators that capture: current achievement, improvements over time, and poverty-based disparities or gaps. Massachusetts emerges as the top-achieving state this year, earning a grade of B, followed closely by Maryland and New Jersey, each with a B-minus. Perennial strong performers, these states also comprised the nation’s top three scorers in 2008, the last time the index was updated. Despite some solid showings, a wide gulf separates the leaders from the rest of the pack, with the average state earning a D-plus on K-12 Achievement. Four states—Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and West Virginia—and the District of Columbia receive grades of F on the index.

“If the turbulence and waves of hardship brought by the recession have taught us anything, it’s that America will sink or swim in a global economy based on its success educating all of its citizens, not just a privileged few, to high standards” said Christopher B. Swanson, vice president of Editorial Projects in
Education, the nonprofit organization that publishes Education Week. “If we are going to continue advancing as a nation, then strong, sustained, and equitable educational improvement must become the norm for students in every state rather than the exception that it is today.”

The report finds that the nation has made little progress improving the opportunities for students to succeed throughout their lives. The nation receives a C-plus on the report’s annual Chance-for-Success Index, the same grade as last year. Massachusetts earns the only A and remains at the top of the national rankings for the fourth year running. Connecticut, New Hampshire, and New Jersey each post grades of A-minus. New Mexico and Nevada receive the lowest scores, with grades of D-plus and D respectively. The EPE Research Center’s Chance-for-Success Index provides a detailed look at the role that education plays as a person moves from childhood, through formal K-12 education, and into college and the workforce.

Quality Counts 2011 also offers an updated view of state efforts to better coordinate the connections between K-12 schooling and other segments of the education pipeline, including early-childhood education, college readiness, and links to the world of work. The report finds marked improvement in this Transitions and Alignment category, where the nation’s grade has risen to a C-plus for 2011, from a C in 2009. Five states earned grades of A this year, and a majority of states have enacted at least eight of the 14 policies tracked in the report. The most rapid movement is seen around policies that promote college preparation, which has been a major focus of the Common Core State Standards Initiative and the federal
Race to the Top program.

This year’s report includes a special study of state education-finance policies as well as its annual analysis of school spending patterns and the equitable distribution of those funds. The national grade in school finance holds steady at a C for 2011, after earlier dropping from a C-plus in 2009.

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