Report: Many states still lagging behind in education
Friday, January 27, 2017
The 2017 edition of Education Week's Quality Counts report shows that American schools still have considerable room for improvement.
Individual states were graded on metrics like school finances and student achievement, along with environmental factors. The report revealed how each state is faring in the education meter and that even the top-ranking state, Massachusetts, got only a B rating.
This has sparked concerns over the future of U.S. education and how we can ensure that our children get the excellent education they deserve.
The top-performing states showed a well-rounded and comprehensive approach to education. This meant more resources and funds for each student, both at the district levels and regarding parental spending. It is not surprising to see these states also showed a larger percentage of students opting for higher education.
High academic achievement and family income levels are directly proportional in most cases since income provides not just resources but also stability for students. Well-funded school districts and states have better educational tools and digital resources for their kids, greater access to books and comprehensive extracurricular activities, all of which lead to richer learning experiences.
U.S. education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos touched on some important points at her confirmation hearing, especially about school proficiency. While there is a lot of disagreement over funding and policies, policymakers, authorities and parental communities agree on educational reforms needed to be revisited.
DeVos' hearing and stress on school proficiency, school choice and support for educational choice programs like charter schools resonates with the report's outcome. It shows how school choice has positively boosted academic success in states that allow it. Charter and private schools of choice show students performing better in math and reading than their public school counterparts. Some states have also shown lower juvenile delinquencies and crime rates when school choice is applied.
With a large majority of students living below the poverty level in the U.S., funding and educational resources have already occupied the conscious minds of educators. Affluent districts with high-income families also fare well in the public school arena since higher property taxes, extensive private fundraising and parental resources all work in tandem for better student performance.
These schools tend to enjoy more qualified and well-paid teachers, offering advantages often at par with private and charter schools. As we can see, the demographic background has a significant effect on the states' and districts' performance. Much depends on the equitable spending by each state, how the funds are distributed across school districts.
As mentioned, Massachusetts topped the charts with an 87.3 percent graduation rate and $14,081 per pupil spending. It also shows an impressive early childhood education performance. The survey showed educated and affluent parents, who are a majority here, contribute to these positive numbers.
New Jersey came next with $15,946 per pupil spending and a high graduation rate of 89.7 percent. The state invests heavily in its school system, spending an equivalent of 4.8 percent of its taxable resources on its schools.
Vermont was third in the ranking but has a higher per-pupil spending ($19,654) than the first two states. In fact, this is the highest in the country. It has a high school graduation rate of 87.7 percent, making it one of the highest-rated education systems in America. New Hampshire and Maryland follow closely. Wyoming ranked seventh-best overall but is also the only state with an A grade in school finance.
On the other end of the spectrum, Michigan (ranked 34th), Texas (ranked 40th) and California (ranked 41st), were among those to earn a C-minus. The last position belongs to the state of Nevada, with a per pupil spending of just $8,441, getting an overall grade of D.
What is worrisome is that the high school graduation rate has declined dangerously by 12 percent over the last 10 years. Clearly, much work needs to be done here so that students across the country can have uniform opportunities and resources to learn and grow.
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