Edweek Rankings: What really matters when it comes to student achievement?

Education Week’s annual Quality Counts report was released January 9th.  Depending on past performance, states were either eager to find out how they did or cringing while they waited for their results.  Many states use the report as a feel-good moment to pat themselves on the back.  The rest start spinning negative results into positives before the report even hits their doorsteps.

The Quality Counts report is comprehensive and complicated.  It contains enough variables that most states should at least be able to find some positives within their results.  After reviewing the report, however, one may begin to question the relationship between student achievement, standards, assessment, and accountability.

The standards, assessment, and accountability rankings are based on test items used to measure student performance, the alignment of assessments to academic standards, as well as the rewards, assistance, and sanctions states provide schools.  The student achievement rankings factor in NAEP scores, high school graduation rates, and AP test scores.

The table below illustrates an interesting point:

State Ranking for K-12 Student Achievement(score/grade) State Ranking for Standards,   Assessment, and Accountability (score/grade)
Massachusetts 1   (83.7 B) 23   (88.4 B+)
Maryland 2   (83.1 B) 44   (88.3 B+)
New Jersey 3   (81.1 B-) 24   (75.5 C)
Indiana 12   (72.8 C) 1   (97.8 A)
Louisiana 49   (59.8 D-) 2   (97.2 A)
West Virginia 47   (60.8 D-) 3   (96.7 A)

A converse relationship seems to exist between standards, assessment, and accountability when compared to student achievement.  The three states with the highest rankings in student achievement (MA, MD, and NJ) are less impressive in the standards, assessment, and accountability rankings.  The three states ranked highest in standards, assessment, and accountability (IN, LA, and WV) struggle to measure up when it comes to student achievement.

Simply put, Education Week’s Quality Counts report calls into question the need to focus on state standards, assessment, and accountability.  States like Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Maryland have raised academic rigor without being waylaid by the demands of standards, assessment, and accountability.  The states that have directed their energy at compliance with federal guidelines have done so without benefit to their students.

No one is questioning the need for standards, assessment, and accountability.  Schools and teachers have always been, and will always be, accountable.  The Quality Counts report, however, illustrates that states would be better off focusing on quality teacher training, instruction, and compensation rather than the minutia associated with standards, assessment, and accountability.

Highlights from the 2014 Quality Counts report can be accessed at the link below:

http://www.edweek.org/media/ew/qc/2014/shr/16shr.us.h33.pdf

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