More than a decade after states started down the road to school reform with standards and accountability measures, classrooms are beginning to see results, according to Quality Counts 2001, the fifth annual state-by-state report on the nations schools by Education Week, a trade publication.
But authors of report, financed by a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts (which also funds Stateline.org), included a warning to the states: without better alignment between what they want students to know and the tests they are using and without more support, the movement could fail.
Standards and accountability steps taken by the states to set standards and test performance including whether or not the test is aligned with the standards. Kentucky, Maryland, New Mexico and New York received A's.
The report gives the states an overall grade of C for their efforts to set standards, measure student performance and make schools accountable. States with the highest overall grades include: Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.
To check on how your state measures up, click on RANKINGS.
Quality Counts 2001: A Better Balance reviews the progress of the states in five areas:
Student achievement on the National Assessment of Education Progress, a national voluntary basic skills test.
Efforts to improve the quality of teaching. Connecticut and North Carolina received B's. No state achieved an A.
School climate, which includes class size, safety issues and charter school laws. Connecticut received a B-. No state received an A.
The amount of money a state distributes to schools and the fairness with which it is spent across school districts was also measured. Forty-six states increased their per-pupil funding between 1998 and 1999. No state received an A.
Virginia B. Edwards, editor of Quality Counts 2001, said, "States have been engaged in an unprecedented effort to raise academic expectations for all students. That effort is beginning to pay off where it counts: in the classroom. Our concern is that unless states balance the pressures they're now putting on schools and students with the training and materials needed to do the job, their high expectations won't be realized. And public support for public education in general, could be undermined."
Forty-nine states impose academic standards, and 50 states test students to see if they are learning. Twenty-seven states hold school accountable for results by either rating them or identifying low-performing schools. Iowa is the only state without statewide standards. But the state still issues the Iowa Basic Skills to measure student performance.
Teachers Support New Standards
The new state-by-state report card includes a poll of 1,019 public school teachers. While 87 percent of teachers surveyed supported reforms, a majority said curriculum is more difficult and expectations are higher. A majority also said too much stress has been put on the state tests, and that subjects are being neglected to teach to tests.