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What are our states being graded on this time?

A new report, Leaders & Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on K-12 Educational Effectiveness  by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce attempts to affect change by ranking states on their performance and policy environment. However, will shining a light on states’ areas of improvement as well as areas that continue to fall short, influence policymakers and state leaders to take action?

In this update to their 2007 edition, the Chamber’s report includes new metrics, and shows changes in student scores, giving each state a grade from A-F on 11 measures including academic achievement, academic achievement for low- income and minority students, return on investment (ROI), postsecondary and workforce readiness, international competitiveness, and fiscal responsibility.

In looking at what the Chamber is actually grading our states on, there are valid concerns about some of the indicators. For example, NAEP scores are measures of the overall achievement level of students and not necessarily an accurate reflection of the quality of each state’s school system, yet they were used as the sole measure of academic achievement. Does a state pension system impact educational funding within a state? And if so, how? When looking at return on investment, there are just too many variations within states to accurately calculate a state ROI score.

Our schools have made tremendous strides in a number of areas in recent years—high school graduation rates are up, as are the numbers of students attending college— yet, one can’t deny that there is always room for improvement as this report indicates.

The National School Boards Association Center for Public Education's full analysis of the Chamber's report is available here.

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