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Round-up of National Education Report Cards

For a long time, report cards have been something children await anxiously because it tells their parents how they are doing in school. But more and more, we are seeing high-profile report cards on American education itself. And it has become a crowded field. The Center for Public Education has identified more than a dozen national "report cards" on various aspects of education from pre-kindergarten through college. While there is some overlap among many of them, they have different emphases and use different criteria for rating performance. We developed this guide to national report cards in order to help our visitors become better consumers of the information they offer. The following tables provide a quick overview of several major report cards and describes who publishes the report card, what it is grading, and the criteria used for making judgments.

Remember that awarding grades is, by definition, a value-laden process. So it's important to approach any of these reports with a critical eye. The more you understand about what they measure and how they measure it, the better able you are to use this information to support effective education policy.

Index of Report Cards

Expectations Gap Achieve, Inc.
Few States Set World-Class Standards Education Next
Measuring Up National Center for Public Policy and Education
National Assessment of Educational Progress  National Center for Education Statistics
Quality Counts: Chance-for-Success Index Education Week
Quality Counts: K-12 Achievement Index Education Week 
Quality Counts: Transitions and Alignments Education Week 
Sizing Up State Standards 2008  American Federation of Teachers 
Leaders and Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on Educational Effectiveness U.S. Chamber of Commerce 
State of Preschool: 2007 Preschool Yearbook National Institute of Early Education Research
The Fordham Report 2006: How Well Are States Educating Our Neediest Children? Thomas B. Fordham Foundation 
The State of State Standards Thomas B. Fordham Foundation 

Report Card Title Closing the Expectations Gap
Issued by

Achieve, Inc., is an education advocacy organization created by the nation's governors and business leaders. Achieve focuses on state education policies aimed at preparing students for college and work readiness.

www.achieve.org

Last release February 2011
Next expected release February 2012
Age/Grade span High school 
Subjects Math and English
What is graded/ranked?

For each of five categories, Achieve determines whether states have:

  • whether they have the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)
  • graduation requirements
  • assessments tied to standards
  • accountability systems aligned to the expectations of two- and four-year colleges and employers
What is not graded/ranked?
  • How well states are preparing their students for postsecondary education and the workforce
  • Whether the standards are explicit and publicly available
How are states graded/ranked? States were asked to respond to an online survey conducted by Achieve in Fall 2010
Criteria applied

Achieve asked each state whether it had policies in place, or planned to put policies in place, in the following five categories:

  • Aligning high school standards with real-world expectations
  • Aligning high school graduation requirements with college and workplace expectations
  • Using existing high school assessments for college admissions or placement
  • Holding high schools accountable for graduating students that are college and work ready
  • Developing a Pre-K–Grade 16 (P-20) longitudinal data system 
How is it useful? The rating shows whether your state is aligning its high school standards and assessments to postsecondary expectations and the requirements of the workplace according to Achieve criteria.

Report Card Title Few States Set World-Class Standards
Issued by

Education Next, a peer-reviewed education journal of research and opinion published by the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, and edited by scholars from the Fordham Foundation and Manhattan Institute among others.

http://educationnext.org/

Last release Summer 2008
Next expected release n/a
Age/Grade span Grades 4 and 8
Subjects Math and reading
What is graded/ranked?

Each state’s proficiency standards are compared to NAEP standards to determine if they are as rigorous

What is not graded/ranked?
  • Achievement level of students in each state
  • Quality of the state assessments
  • Quality of the content standards
  • Alignment of state standards and state assessments
How are states graded/ranked? States are given letter grades (A, B, C, D and F) for each subject in each grade based on the rigor of their proficiency standards as compared with National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) standards. 
 Criteria applied

Rigor is based on a state’s definition of proficient compared to NAEP:

  • For each test the difference between the percentage of students who were proficient on NAEP and the percentage reported to be proficient on the state’s own assessment was calculated.
  • States where more students reached proficiency on the state assessments than on NAEP received lower grades than states where fewer students reached proficiency on the state assessment than on NAEP.
How is it useful?

The grades are useful in determining if your state’s proficiency standards are as rigorous as NAEP's benchmarks.


Report Card Title Measuring Up
Issued by

National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, a non-profit advocacy organization that focuses on expanding opportunities for Americans to pursue higher education.

www.highereducation.org/

Last release December 2008
Next expected release Fall 2010
Age/Grade span Kindergarten–Higher Education including workforce training
Subjects Math, science, reading, and writing
What is graded/ranked?

Whether schools are preparing their K–12 students for higher education.

Note: This is one of six criteria used to evaluate states and the nation on how effective they are at providing Americans with an education beyond high school. However, it is the only criterion that focused on K–12 education.

What is not graded/ranked?
  • Quality of the state standards and assessments 
  • Alignment of state standards and state assessments
How are states graded/ranked? In comparison to other states, each state is given a letter grade (A, B, C, D, or F) based on how effectively it prepares K–12 students for higher education.
 Criteria applied

States are compared in four areas:

  • High School Completion
  • K–12 Course Taking
  • K–12 Student Achievement based on
    • NAEP proficiency scores
    • College Entrance Exam scores
    • Advanced Placement Exams scores
  • Teacher Quality based on
    • The number of students taught by qualified teachers
How is it useful?

The report card is an indicator for how well your state is preparing high school graduates for higher education. It also examines various indicators about the state of higher education in each state.


Report Card Title

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

Issued by

National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the primary entity within the U.S. Department of Education for collecting and analyzing data related to education.
www.nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/

Longitudinal high school transcript study:
http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2011462

Last release
  • Art (Grade 8), 2009
  • Civics (Grades 4, 8, 12), 2011
  • Economics (Grade 12), 2007
  • Math (Grades 4, 8, 12), 2009
  • Reading (Grades 4, 8, 12), 2009
  • Science (Grades 4, 8, 12), 2011
  • U.S. History, (Grades 4, 8, 12), 2007
Next expected release
  • U.S. History, Summer 2011
  • Math, Fall 2011
  • Reading, Fall 2011
  • Geography, 2011
  • Writing, 2012
Age/Grade span Grades 4 and 8 and 12
Subjects

Reading, math, writing, U.S. history, econmics, arts, civics, and science

What is graded/ranked?

Student achievement in each state is reported as an overall score and at four achievement levels. Results are also disaggregated by various student groups.

What is not graded/ranked?
  • Quality of the state standards and assessments
  • Alignment of state standards and state assessments.
How are states graded/ranked?

For each state, NAEP reports students’ average score or change in score and the percent of its student performing at each of four achievement levels (see below). Scores on NAEP are based on a representative sample of students from each of the 50 states. NAEP does not rank states by their scores.

Criteria applied

Scores range from zero to 500 in math and reading, and zero to 300 in science and writing. The scores correspond to achievement levels: Below Basic, Basic, Proficient, and Advanced, which indicate the level of knowledge and skills students demonstrate.

How is it useful?

NAEP shows how well students in your state perform against NAEP’s standards over time. It can also be used to compare student performance in your state to other states.


Report Card Title Quality Counts: Chance-for-Success Index
Issued by

Education Week, a non-profit, weekly newspaper for education professionals and policymakers.

www.edweek.org

Last release

January 2010

Next expected release

January 2011

Age/Grade span

Birth–Adulthood

Subjects

Math, reading, and non-education factors

What is graded/ranked?

How a child’s future educational and economic success differs by the state they are born and raised in.

What is not graded/ranked?

Quality or effectiveness of each state’s education system

How are states graded/ranked?

States are ranked according to how prepared their young people are to start school, succeed in elementary and secondary school, and hit key educational and economic benchmarks as adults.

Criteria applied

States' rankings are based on how they measure up to the national average on each of 13 indicators in three categories:

  • The early years:
    • Based on student demographic characteristics and the percent of students enrolled in early childhood programs.
  • The school-age years:
    • Based on 4th grade reading scores, 8th grade math scores, and high school graduation rates.
  • The adults years:
    • Based on postsecondary enrollment and completion rates and income and employment rates.
How is it useful?

The index is an indication of how likely a child born in your state will experience success as an adult. It contains many social and economic factors, including education.


Report Card Title Quality Counts 2011: Uncertain Forecasts, Education Adjusts to a New Economic Reality
Issued by

Education Week, a non-profit, weekly newspaper for education professionals and policymakers.

www.edweek.org

Last release

January 2011

Next expected release

January 2012

Age/Grade span

Pre-Kindergarten–Grade 12

Subjects

n/a

What is graded/ranked?

The surveys, distributed electronically on June 30, 2010, included sections regarding:
school finance and the impact of the economy on education P-20 systems

What is not graded/ranked?

How and why student demographics are differentially affected by the Great Recession's impact on state education policies.

How are states ranked?

The K-12 Achievement Index, uses 18 indicators, and ranks states in an A-F grading mode.

The Chance-for-Success Index, includes 13 indicators, and grades states using a “best in class” rubric, where a score of 100 points on the index would mean that a state ranked first in the nation on each and every indicator.

Criteria applied

The K-12 Achievement Index evaluates state’s performance based on:

  • current achievement
  • improvements over time
  • poverty-based disparities or gaps

The updated Chance-for-Success Index reviews state efforts to coordinate connections along the education pipeline, including:

  • early-childhood education
  • college readiness
  • links to the world of work

An original survey was issued additionally to assess the state of public education finances and explore reactions to the Great Recession by school systems nationwide.

How is it useful?

The rating is useful in determining if your state is active in aligning student expectations at each stage of education. By examining pre-kindergarten on up, Education Week presents a larger view of alignment policies than Achieve's Expectations Gap, which focuses on high school to college and workplace. This special edition affords insight into the various ways states are adapting to the nation's new economic circumstances.


Report Card Title Sizing Up State Standards 2008
Issued by

American Federation of Teachers (AFT), a labor union that represents classroom teachers across the United States

www.aft.org

Last release

April 2008

Next expected release

n/a

Age/Grade span

Elementary (K-5), Middle (6-8) and High School (9-12)

Subjects

English, Math, Science, and Social Studies

What is graded/ranked?

The extent to which state standards are clear, specific, content and based.

What is not graded/ranked?
  • Quality of the assessments.
  • Rigor of the assessments.
How are states ranked?

Whether or not each standard meets AFT’s “Strong” criteria.

Criteria applied

For a standard to meet AFT’s “Strong” criteria it must be:

  • Detailed, explicit, and content and skills based
  • Accessible through the state’s Web site
  • Grade specific (e.g., grade 4) not clustered (e.g., elementary school)
  • Cover specific content for each subject (e.g., geometry and algebra in math)
How is it useful?

The rating examines whether your state’s standards documents are clearly written and accessible for teachers and the public, according to AFT's criteria, and enables comparisons across states.


Report Card Title Leaders and Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on Educational Effectiveness
Issued by

U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a federation of U.S. businesses representing businesses of all sizes and sectors. The report card is a collaboration with the Center for American Progress -- a think tank dedicated to progressive ideas and policies -- and the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research -- a think tank concerned with the institutions of freedom and democratic capitalism.

www.uschamber.com

Last release

November 2009

Next expected release

n/a

Age/Grade span Kindergarten–Higher education
Subjects
  • 4th & 8th grade math and reading
  • Advanced placement English, calculus, biology, and U.S. history
What is graded/ranked?

How well states prepare their students for the 21st century.

What is not graded/ranked?

The resources and programs states provide their schools

How are states ranked?

States receive a letter grade in each of nine categories:

  • Academic achievement
  • Academic achievement of low-income and minority students
  • Return on investment
  • Truth in advertising about student proficiency
  • Rigor of standards
  • Post-secondary and workforce readiness
  • 21st century teaching force
  • Flexibility in management and policy
  • Data quality
Criteria applied

Letter grades are given for each of the nine categories.

Several indicators were adapted or taken directly from other report cards. For example, Academic achievement (NAEP); Truth in advertising (Education Next); Rigor of standards (Fordham, Achieve, Education Week); and Data quality (Data Quality Campaign).

The Chamber's "rate on investment" was calculated by adjusting each state's current educational expenditures for student poverty, students with special needs, and cost of living, and comparing the adjusted expenditure to an average of overall 4th and 8th grade math and reading scores.

"Flexibility and management" includes indicators for "strength of charter school law", the existence of a "virtual school", and principal autonomy.

How is it useful?

The report card pulls together several indicators of students' academic preparation and teacher quality that appear separately elsewhere. It futher attempts to show a relationship between education dollars and NAEP performance, as well as management flexibility, which reflect the business sensibilities of the Chamber.


Report Card Title State of Preschool: 2009 Preschool Yearbook
Issued by

National Institute for Early Education Research, a non-profit center located in Rutgers University's Graduate School of Education. NIEER supports early childhood education initiatives.

www.nieer.org

Last release

March 2010

Next expected release

Spring 2011

Age/Grade span Pre-Kindergarten
Subjects

Early childhood school readiness

What is graded/ranked?

Whether states met the minimum criteria needed to ensure an effective pre-k program.

What is not graded/ranked?

How policies have been implemented

  • Access students have to Pre-K programs
  • Effectiveness of Pre-K programs
How are states ranked?

States’ rankings are based on the number of benchmarks for which they have instituted polices.

Criteria applied

States' ratings were based on whether or not they have policies that correspond to the 10 benchmarks for a quality Pre-K program.

  • Early learning standards
  • Teachers degree
  • Teacher specialized training
  • Assistant teacher degree
  • Teacher in-service
  • Maximum class size
  • Staff-child ratio
  • Required screening/referral and support services
  • Meals
  • Required monitoring
How is it useful?

The rating helps you determine how active your state is at expanding access to high-quality pre-kindergarten education according to NIEER criteria.


Report Card Title The Fordham Report 2006: How Well Are States Educating Our Neediest Children?
Issued by

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a non-profit education organization that focuses on achievement gaps and promotes expansion of choice and voucher programs.

www.edexcellence.net

Last release

November 2006

Next expected release

n/a

Age/Grade span

Grade 4-Grade 12

Subjects

Reading, math, and science

What is graded/ranked?

How well states are educating their poor and minority students

What is not graded/ranked?

How education reforms effect the achievement of poor and minority students

How are states ranked?

States are given letter grades (A, B, C, D, and F) in each of three major categories; Student Achievement, Achievement Trends, and Education Reform. The grades are then averaged to create a cumulative grade point average (GPA) for each state.

Criteria applied

Grades are given for each of thirty indicators that make up the three major categories.

  • Three quarters of the Student Achievement grade is based on the percent of poor and minority students scoring at the Proficient and Above level on NAEP while the other quarter was based on the graduation rates of minority students and the percent taking and passing at least one Advanced Placement exam
  • The Achievement Trends grade is based on changes in NAEP scores over the past 15 years for poor and minority students
  • The Education Reform grade is based on each state's:
    • Curricular content which includes the strength of their state standards
    • Standards-based reforms which includes how rigorous the state's definition of proficient is and whether their standards are aligned to college readiness
    • School choice laws on whether a state allows vouchers and/or charter schools
How is it useful?

The student achievement and achievement trends indicators can be helpful in evaluating how effective your state has been in educating their poor and minority students compared to other students. The education reform indicator enables state comparisons of educational opportunity as defined by Fordham experts and includes grades for school choice policies. 


Report Card Title The State of State Standards
Issued by

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a non-profit education organization that focuses on achievement gaps and promotes expansion of choice and voucher programs.

www.edexcellence.net

Last release

July 2010

Next expected release

n/a

Age/Grade span

Kindergarten-Grade 12

Subjects

English and math

What is graded/ranked?

Reviews English language arts (ELA) and mathematics content standards of the fifty states and the Dis­trict of Columbia, and compares their rigor and clarity to those recently published by the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI).

What is not graded/ranked?
  • Whether they are being ef­fectively implemented in the schools or driving improvements in student achievement
  • Standards' alignment with state assessments 
How are states ranked?

The states are ranked by three labels.  "Clearly inferior” is given to to states with standards that earned a ten (or a straight A), by which the CCSS are inferior. And the majority of states received labels of “clearly superior”, meaning they earning a six or lower (a C, D, or F), and the CCSS are superior to their respective state standards.  Lastly, many states receved a “too close to call”, meaning that, overall, their standards are at least as clear and rigorous as the CCSS.

 Criteria applied

The review consisted of applying a set of criteria to the standards. They assigned two scores to each set of standards: one for “Content and Rigor,” the other for “Clarity and Specificity.”

Content and Rigor is scored on a 0-7 point scale while Clarity and Specificity is scored on a 0-3 point scale.

How is it useful?

Fordham's report card is useful as it provides concise, timely information on state efforts to adhere to the newly introduced Common Core State Standards. 


Posted: March 1, 2007

Updated: September 28, 2010

This guide was written by Jim Hull, Policy Analyst, Center for Public Education

Special thanks to Susan Loomis, Assistant Director for Psychometrics, National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB); Ray Fields, Assistant Director for Policy and Research, NAGB; and Donald Rock, Educational Researcher, ETS for their insightful feedback and suggestions. However, the opinions and any errors found within the paper are solely those of the author.

© 2008-2010 Center for Public Education