How’s that again? Kentucky’s new education ranking looks funny

I wrote yesterday about the ironic situation of Kentucky getting rated at #10 among the states for its education program by Education Week while in the very same week Kentucky got rated #35 by Michelle Rhee’s Students First group.

I’ve now had time to look a little deeper into the EdWeek rankings. Something doesn’t work there for me.

For one thing, according to a summary released by Governor Steve Beshear’s office, Kentucky made absolutely astronomical improvement in EdWeek’s rankings in just two years. Back in 2011 the state supposedly ranked 34th. Now, miracle of miracles, we are suddenly at number 10.

No way! Real education PERFORMANCE simply doesn’t move that fast.

So, how did Kentucky get credit in EdWeek for such dramatic progress?

When you look at the six areas EdWeek examines –
• Chance for Success,
• K-12 Achievement,
• Standards, Assessments & Accountability,
• Teaching Profession,
• School Finance, and
• Transitions and Alignment
it turns out that all the big change from Quality Counts 2012 to 2013 for Kentucky came in just one area, “Transitions and Alignment.” The score in this area jumped up sharply by more than 10 points in just one year on EdWeek’s 100 point scale.

There was no change in scores for:
• “K-12 Achievement,”
• “Standards, Assessments & Accountability,” or
• “Teaching Profession,”
because EdWeek only computes data for these items every other year.

Kentucky’s score for “Chance for Success” actually went down slightly between 2012 and 2013.

So, what does EdWeek look at for “Transitions and Alignment?” The answer is that this element deals with whether or not the state has a standards and assessments for things like “School Readiness,” “College Readiness,” and “Workforce Readiness.”

It’s all really nice stuff. In fact, IF it works, its mostly really good stuff.

But, therein lies the rub: there isn’t any measure in Quality Counts of whether those standards Kentucky and other states say they have are adequate and actually produce better results for students.

If the state simply has a standard, any standard, that is enough to pass EdWeek’s muster.

If a state simply has an assessment, Quality Counts just assumes it is good enough.

Well, let’s get this straight. Just saying you have education standards or assessments isn’t good enough. Kentuckians learned that through the failures of both the KIRIS and CATS assessments and their underlying standards that didn’t produce badly needed improvements in education such as adequate preparation for college and careers.

In fact, when you look at results, the dubious nature of EdWeek’s rankings becomes very evident.

Consider Kentucky’s latest proficiency rates from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Those NAEP proficiency rates are grim. In general, only around one in three students in Kentucky is proficient in fourth and eighth grade subjects. If that performance is good enough to make Kentucky #10 in the country, then this country is in really big trouble!

And, if Quality Counts doesn’t start to dig deeper in its annual rankings, it will just be adding to the problem.

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