As a national monitor for effective and high quality education, Education Week’s annual Quality Counts surveys are a valuable resource in comparative data. The assessments and grades provided on state policies and a range of key indicators year by year help identify the best performers — the states to beat, as it were — in the six categories the report tracks. The data provide some perspective on the progress Ohio is making relative to other states as it prepares students for an increasingly competitive world.
The research organization responsible for the surveys, the Editorial Projects in Education, ranked Ohio 12th, with an overall grade of B- in the 2013 report released last week. The ranking (up from C+ last year) is a respectable enough showing, Maryland earning the top spot for the fifth year in a row with a B+ overall grade.
Among the categories in the report, the Chance for Success Index expresses the link between early opportunities and adult outcomes in a state. The index relates factors such as the level of parents’ income and education, preschool enrollment and student performance and graduation rates to such outcomes as postsecondary attainment, income and full-time employment rates.
In essence, the index attempts to tease out the cumulative result of the educational process. Massachusetts, the best performer on this measure, earned an A-. Against that performance, Ohio’s 27th rank and C+ is mediocre. A proficiency rate below 34 percent in fourth-grade reading is hardly competitive with Massachusetts’ 50 percent. Neither is Ohio’s postsecondary attainment level of about 35.7 percent to the leader’s 50.9 percent.
Ohio has struggled for nearly two decades to establish an equitable system of school funding that would level the financial playing field and enhance every child’s chance for success. Unfortunately, the report indicates Ohio continues to struggle with inequities, the state ranking 40th in funding disparities among districts and 39th in spending variations per-pupil. The urgency couldn’t be greater for Gov. John Kasich to produce a funding mechanism that ensures every student in Ohio a fair shot at excellent education, as he has repeatedly promised.
State officials are optimistic the policies the state has adopted — including the tough, new Common Core curriculum and assessments, a third-grade reading guarantee (underfunded, unfortunately) and newly defined standards for college readiness — will greatly improve management and performance of Ohio’s public schools. Posting a better grade overall than last year, Ohio still dropped from 10th to 12th place in Quality Counts 2013, suggesting that the pace of improvements elsewhere is faster. If the report underscores one thing, it is that Ohio has a distance to go to beat the standard set by the likes of Maryland and Massachussetts.