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Valuing Public Education: A 50 State Report Card
On February 2, the Network
for Public Education (NPE) issued an evaluation of how well our states
and the District of Columbia support public schools called Valuing
Public Education: 50 State Report Card.Over the years, there have
been many reports purporting to rank state policies on public education,
but the NPE report card is different.
The Report Card looks at whether a state's current policies and
laws---in six key areas---make public schools stronger or undermine
them. This approach stands in opposition to reports released by
conservative political organizations like the American Legislative
Exchange Council (ALEC), which generally applaud states for privatizing
NPE explains that it created this report card: " ... because it
is time to focus the national debate on research-based strategies
to improve education and create equal opportunities for all children.
... NPE values specific policies that will make our public schools
vibrant and strong---a well-trained, professional teaching force,
adequate and equitable funding wisely spent, and policies that
give all students a better opportunity for success ... . We applaud
those states that have resisted the forces of privatization and
profiteering that in recent years have been called 'reforms.'"
The Report Card measures the policies of each State and the District
of Columbia on:
- School Finance
- Spending Taxpayer Resources Wisely
- Professionalization of Teaching
- No High Stakes Testing
- Resistance to Privatization
- Student Chance of Success
The school finance portion of the report relies on information
in "Is School Funding
Fair? A National Report Card," by Bruce Baker, David Sciarra,
and Danielle Farrie. Referencing the most recent version of this
National Report Card, NPE ranks states based on their overall per-pupil
funding level, distribution of funding across districts according
to poverty-based need, and "effort," that is, funding compared
to state fiscal capacity. As NPE's grades indicate, most states
need to improve their school funding systems, but there are models
to be followed, including New Jersey, which scored the only A in
this section, and five other states that scored Bs.
The spending wisely section looks at class sizes, the proportion
of students in preschool and kindergarten, and a state's rejection
of virtual schools. NPE cites research indicating that virtual
schools are an extremely ineffective way to educate children. In
this category, Montana scored the only B, and no state scored an
NPE used nine measures to assess states on the professionalization
of teaching, including the proportion of experienced teachers,
the quality of teacher preparation, average teacher salaries, and
the presence of demanding requirements for certification. Only
two states, Iowa and New York, received Bs, and there was no A
in this category.
On testing, NPE ranked states higher based on their rejection
of high stakes attached to test scores for high school graduation,
student promotion, and teacher evaluations. Four states, including
Nebraska and Vermont, scored A.
NPE defined resistance to privatization as the rejection of vouchers,
strong oversight and control of charters, and rejection of "parent
trigger" laws. Here seven states, including Kentucky and the Dakotas,
earned A, while several states earned Fs, including the largest,
California, Texas and Florida.
The 50 State Report Card bases its final measure, chance of success,
on each state's rate of poverty, which is known to cause decreased
academic achievement, and racial and ethnic integration, which
improves achievement as demonstrated in a large body of research.
The trends in both of these areas have been negative over the last
10 years, the report card notes, and no state scored an A. The
report notes that state policymakers could improve student achievement
by raising the minimum wage, providing job training and other paths
out of poverty, and finding ways to promote integration.
NPE's hope is that "this report card will steer us away from policies
that undermine our public schools and toward policies that will
make them better for all children." After all, NPE's stated reason
for supporting public education is because "public education is
a pillar of our democracy."
Visit the NPE
website for a link to an interactive
map, and download a pdf of the Valuing Public Education:
A 50 State Report Card here.
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