American Legislative Exchange Council releases Report Card on American Education

September 1, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The American Legislative Exchange Council released the Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress and Reform today coauthored by yours truly, Andy LeFevre and Dan Lips. Follow the link and check out our rankings of state NAEP performance based on the overall math and reading scores and gains of general education low-income children, and our “poll of polls” grades for K-12 policy in each state.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush penned the foreward. After losing a bet Stanford Political Scientist Terry Moe gave the book a very kind endorsement:

Everyone interested in education reform should read this book. Using a method that—by focusing on the achievement of low-income children—allows for apples-to-apples comparisons across the states, the authors present a treasure trove of eye-opening performance data and arrive at a ranking of state performance that reveals both surprising success and shocking failure. The book is well worth reading for the data alone. But it also offers a good deal more, from research summaries to methodological clarifications to model legislation—and concludes with an insightful discussion of the high-powered reforms that have helped some states out-perform others, and that offer the nation a path to improvement. I should add, finally—and with genuine admiration—that the book is beautifully written and a pleasure to read: something I can rarely say about a data analysis.

JPGB readers will of course realize that this is quite a tribute to Andy and Dan, given your painfully intimate knowledge of my garbled writing. Thanks also to Jeff Reed and Dave Myslinski from ALEC (Jeff is now rocking and rolling at the Foundation for Educational Choice), Jay and my Goldwater Institute comrades.

Check it out and let me know what you think. Be nice though: today is my birthday, which makes me even more emotionally volatile than usual.

UPDATE: Here is a link to the PDF.


Sneak Preview: Report Card on American Education

August 30, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Later this week the American Legislative Exchange Council will release Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress and Reform written by yours truly, Dan Lips and Andy LeFevre.

As suggested by the title, we grade each state by their academic performance, their academic gains and their K-12 reform policies. On the later, we use a “poll of polls” technique and average the grades assigned for particular policy areas on academic standards, teacher quality, charter school laws, private choice, digital education etc.

Sneak peak: a B+ was the highest grade.

On the performance and progress, we utilize NAEP with an eye to maximizing comparability  between states. After all, no one can be shocked that Connecticut has higher NAEP scores than Mississippi, given the huge disparities in income between the two states.

We therefore judge each state based on the scores of free and reduced lunch eligible general education students on all four main NAEP exams: 4th grade reading and math, 8th grade reading and math. We use the period for which all 50 states and the District of Columbia have participated in NAEP (2003-2009). Using free or reduced lunch eligibility keeps the income range of students under a known limit, whereas non-free and reduced lunch kids can vary in income from still relatively hardscrabble to billionaires.

We made no effort to control for race or ethnicity despite the well-known existence of racial achievement gaps. This is because we believe that such gaps can in fact be closed. We believe that the gaps exist due to policy and cultural factors, all of which can be changed. Schools in particular are in the business (or should be) of promoting a strong academic culture focused on learning-aka controlling the culture of the school.

You’ve never heard of a racial combat effectiveness gap in the United States Marines Corps because it doesn’t exist. The fact that the Marines are a well-led organization with a strong culture has a great deal to do with that, as does the fact that every Marine is a part of the Corps by choice.

In any case, we do not claim that our NAEP rankings provide perfect comparability  just enormously better comparability  than looking at raw NAEP scores.

So you are dying to know whether your state rocked or sucked wind in the rankings. Calm down- pace yourself!

All will be revealed later in the week.


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