Quality Counts 2007: Children's Chances for Success Vary Dramatically

Quality Counts 2007: Children's Chances for Success Vary Dramatically

A child born in Virginia is significantly more likely to experience success throughout life than the average child born in the United States, while a child born in New Mexico is likely to face an accumulating series of hurdles both educationally and economically, according to an analysis published by Education Week. The analysis by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center is based on the “Chance-for-Success Index,” which tracks state efforts to connect education from preschool through postsecondary education and training. The index was developed by the EPE Research Center for Quality Counts 2007: From Cradle to Career, Connecting American Education From Birth to Adulthood, produced by Education Week with support from the Pew Center on the States.

The Chance-for-Success Index provides a perspective on the importance of education throughout a person's lifetime and is based on 13 indicators that highlight whether young children get off to a good start, succeed in elementary and secondary school, and hit key educational and income benchmarks as adults.

Virginia, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire rank at the top of the index, while Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, Arizona, Louisiana, and New Mexico lag significantly behind the national average in descending order.

“Smart states, like smart companies, try to make the most of their investments by ensuring that young people's education is connected from one stage to the next— reducing the chances that students will be lost along the way or require costly remedial programs to acquire skills or knowledge they could have learned right from the start,” said Virginia B. Edwards, the editor and publisher of Education Week and Quality Counts.

The 13 indicators that make up the index capture key performance or attainment outcomes at various stages in a person's lifetime or are correlated with later success. For example, in the early-childhood years, indicators include the percent of children living in families that earn a decent wage and the percent of children with at least one parent who has a postsecondary degree – factors that research shows have an impact on how well children perform in school.

“Overall, the Index captures the cumulative effects of education experience from birth through adulthood and pinpoints the chance for success at each stage and for each state,” said Christopher B. Swanson, the director of the EPE Research Center. “We find that a child's life prospects depend greatly on where he or she lives.”

Virginia, for example, earns the highest Chance-for-Success score. The average child in Virginia starts out ahead of the curve: less likely to live in a low-income family and more likely to have college-educated parents. Those early advantages are amplified during the elementary-through-postsecondary years, when the typical young person enjoys higher achievement and is more likely to finish high school and continue on to college than in other states. Virginia's well-educated adult population and strong economy offer ample opportunities to realize the returns to schooling as individuals enter the workforce. Similar conditions prevail in other high-ranking states, including Connecticut, Minnesota, and New Jersey.

A near-mirror image of this pattern occurs in the steadily declining trajectories of states like New Mexico. There, weak school performance is unable to overcome, and may exacerbate, the early sociodemographic disadvantages of poverty, linguistic isolation, and low parental education. Among adults in New Mexico, educational attainment, income, and rates of steady employment all fall significantly below the national average. Other low-ranking states, such as Louisiana, Arizona, and Texas, share many of the same characteristics.

“When states make smart choices about how they educate our children – from pre-K through college – they are making smart investments in the economic future of their communities,” said Mary Jo Waits, center director for the Pew Center on the States. “This year's Quality Counts report shines the spotlight on those states that have given their children the greatest chance for success and those states that have more to do in preparing their young people for the challenges they will face as adults.”

In general, the Index shows that individuals born in the South and the Southwest are least likely to experience success, while those residing in the Northeast and the North Central states are more likely to do so.

Tracking School, College, and Workforce Readiness

For the first time since its debut in 1997, Quality Counts tracks state efforts to create a more seamless education system, based on more than 80 indicators in five categories: childhood well-being, early-childhood education, K-12 education, postsecondary education, and economy and workforce development.

The report examines the extent to which states have defined what young people need to know and be able to do to move successfully from one stage of education to the next. In general, the report finds far more activity in the early years. For example, 42 states report having early-learning standards aligned with the academic expectations for elementary schools, and 13 states have a formal definition of school readiness.

In contrast, to date, there appears to be far more goodwill than actual policy results when it comes to aligning high school graduation standards with college- and workforce-readiness standards. Only 11 states, for example, have adopted a formal definition of college readiness.

New Achievement Index Launched

To help provide a picture of K-12 performance across states, Quality Counts also includes a new State Achievement Index that ranks each state based on whether its students are significantly above or below the national average or are making progress on 15 indicators. But while the Chance-for-Success Index focuses on a range of academic and other indicators throughout an individual's lifetime, the Achievement Index focuses solely on performance during the K-12 years. It is based on a combination of current performance outcomes and gains states have made over time.

Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, Connecticut, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Virginia, and Washington State are the top performers on the achievement index, while the District of Columbia, Louisiana, Alabama, Hawaii, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Mississippi perform at the bottom in descending order.

Grades Put on Hold

As Quality Counts moves from an exclusive focus on K-12 education to a broader perspective on the connections between K-12 education and the other systems with which it intersects, Education Week is taking the opportunity to rethink the report's core indicators. For that reason, the 2007 report does not grade the states, and it does not include indicators related to school climate, teacher quality, or school finance, as it has in past years. Indicators on state standards, assessments, and accountability systems in K-12 are still included.

State Highlights Reports and Online Extras

Individual findings for each state—including state performance on the Chance-for-Success and State Achievement indices—are included in state highlight reports, will be available online at www.edweek.org. There will be a series of online chats about Quality Counts 2007 at www.edweek.org, including:

  • From Cradle to Career: Connecting American Education from Birth Through Adulthood:
    Friday, January 5, 12 p.m. Eastern
  • College Readiness: Wednesday, January 10, 3 p.m. Eastern
  • Early-Childhood Education: Friday, January 12, 12 p.m. Eastern

About The Editorial Projects in Education Research Center

The EPE Research Center is the research division of the Bethesda, Md.-based nonprofit Editorial Projects in Education. The Research Center conducts annual policy surveys and collects data for the Quality Counts, Diplomas Count, and Technology Counts annual reports and the Education Counts online database. It also contributes research and data to special reports in Education Week, Teacher Magazine, and edweek.org. The EPE Research Center is on the Web at www.edweek.org.

About The Pew Center on the States

The Pew Center on the States, a division of the Pew Charitable Trusts, identifies critical issues facing states, examines diverse policy approaches, and shines a spotlight on nonpartisan, pragmatic solutions. The Pew Center on the States is located on the Web at www.pewcenteronthestates.org

View Quality Counts 2007: Children's Chances for Success Vary Dramatically Reports and Charts at EdWeek.org

Read Quality Counts 2007: Children's Chances for Success Vary Dramatically Executive Summary at EdWeek.org