University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

#10: Education Week Moves AR to 5th in National Rankings

In The View from the OEP on December 12, 2013 at 12:47 pm

best of 2013

As was foreshadowed yesterday, the OEP has compiled its Top 10 Arkansas Education Stories of 2013 and will be releasing them in the upcoming weeks.

Our 10th story on the list brings us all the way back to early January. As has happened for the past decade, Education Week published its annual Quality Counts Report Card. Before we discuss AR’s 5th place finish, let’s talk a bit about the report.

The Quality C5th placeounts Report Card bases its rankings on six major areas: Standards, Accountability, and Assessments, Transitions and Alignments, Teaching Profession, Chance for Success, School Finance and K-12 Achievement. Rankings for each state on each criteria can be downloaded here. Our policy brief ‘Quality Counts 2013’ breaks down each category and explains it further.

Back in 2009, the OEP questioned Education Week’s ranking system in a Letter to the Editor and a blog post. First, OEP takes issue with the “school finance” measure because it rewards states for spending more money, whether or not that leads to actual results. Second, the Chance-for-Success Index is problematic because it gives states higher grades for having fewer disadvantaged students.

2013 Arkansas Quality Counts Results

At last we arrive at the heart of the matter. Arkansas was ranked 5th in the nation overall. Here is a breakdown of Arkansas’ Quality Counts performance:

  • Standards, Accountability, and Assessments: A
  • Transitions and Alignments: A
  • Teaching Profession: B+
  • Chance for Success: C+
  • School Finance: C
  • K-12 Achievement: D

Arkansas’ previous showings in Quality Counts:

  • 2012: 5th
  • 2011: 6th
  • 2010: 10th
  • 2009: 10th

While a #5 ranking was hailed by some in the state, it did not seem consistent with other reports that indicate that Arkansans have some of the lowest college attainment in the nation. Confusing, eh? For example, according to the Lumina Foundation, Arkansas ranks:

  • 49th among states in terms of college attainment
  • 27.92% of the state’s 1.5 million working-age adults hold at least a two-year degree, compared to the national average of 38.3%

How do we make sense of a system that ranks AR both 5th and 49th?

The OEP attempted to sort out these difficulties and we are hopeful that our efforts helped put the rankings in perspective. Our February 2013 blog post summarizes our concerns. Additionally, we released a blog post and policy brief, both titled So…are we 5th?? Or are we 49th??. In the policy brief, we went a step further than most simple analyses and rankings by examining the data while taking into consideration the poverty rates of the students tested. Also in February, Gary Ritter presented to the Arkansas House Education Committee: Are we 5th or 49th? In July 2013, the OEP gave another presentation on this issue to the Arkansas Rural Education Association. You can view the presentation here.

So, which is it? Where does AR rank?

The answer is that Arkansas is neither 5th nor 49th; we fall somewhere in the middle.naep

The best available data is NAEP scores. The NAEP, often called “The Nation’s Report Card,” is administered to a representative sample of Arkansas students in grades 4, 8 and 12 every other year. It includes math and reading subtests.


Math Proficiency %, Grade 4, 1992-2013

naep graph

We hope this helps solve the rankings conundrum. Let us know what you think of the #10 story!

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