Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Latest "Quality Counts" Hits the Newsstands.  If you're like me, your favorite issue of Education Week is the annual Quality Counts issue.  This year's edition hit the newsstands a couple of weeks ago, but I've been unable to sit down and take a close look at how Minnesota stacks up nationally on the comparative national measures this year.

It's a mixed bag for Minnesota in the Education Week stats this year.  While ranking sixth nationally in the area of student achievement, Minnesota received a C+ grade.  While our overall percentage of students meeting proficiency in the NAEP tests rank among the highest in the nation, our achievement gap between poor students and their contemporaries rose over the past ten years, by 0.5% for 4th graders and 3.1% for 8th graders.  While not dramatically worse, a number of states are narrowing the gap and it is troubling that the variety of programs that have been implemented in an attempt to narrow the achievement gap don't appear to be producing the desired results.  I want to make it clear that I don't think these efforts should be abandoned because the gap would most assuredly be worse without these programs and the funding that supports them.  It will be interesting to see over the next few years whether the Literacy Aid program enacted in 2011 will help improve overall scores and reduce the achievement gap.  Minnesota's 80.4% graduation rate is slightly less than six percentage points above the national average of 74.7%.

Minnesota scores a C in the funding category.  Minnesota's regionally-adjusted per pupil revenue of $11,043 ranks 28th out of the 51 jurisdictions listed (50 states and Washington, D.C.)  Minnesota's amount is $821 below the national average.  What is really troubling is that according to the figures, only 33.8% of Minnesota's students reside in districts where spending is above the national average, which is a little more than 12% below the national average.  Equity measures are a mixed bag.  Minnesota sits almost right on the national average in terms of wealth-neutrality and the McLoone index (which measures the amount of current spending as a percentage of the total amount necessary to bring all districts below the median per pupil amount up to that amount).  Minnesota does do better than the national average in the amount of disparity across districts and the dollar gap between districts at the 5th and 95th percentiles.

Where Minnesota does quite well is in the area of the report labelled "Chance for Success," in which Minnesota scores higher than the national average in 11 of the 13 categories that comprise the category.  This category concentrates on the qualities which students "bring to school" in terms of income and the level of parents' education.  The two areas where Minnesota is below the national average--pre-school and kindergarten attendance--will likely improve given the actions of the 2013 Legislature to create early childhood scholarships and all-day kindergarten.

Here is the link to this year's Quality Counts:

Minnesota Report: (downloadable)

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