University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Quality Counts — 2014 Edition!

In The View from the OEP on January 9, 2014 at 12:06 pm


Education Week has published state report cards since 1997 in its annual Quality Counts series to gauge the educational progress of the nation and each state.  This week, the 18th annual Quality Counts (QC) was published. According to the Quality Counts website, “This 18th edition of Quality Counts report delves into the forces that are reshaping the traditional  school district and the forms that can take. Those changes may be generated from within, as districts seek to cope with unforeseen demographic pressures. They may be imposed from outside after long-standing performance and fiscal problems prompt municipal or state-level leaders to take action.”

While that is all well and good, here in Arkansas and in other states, those in the education policy community are interested in how each state fared in the ratings.  As a quick refresher, QC ranks the states in six categories, some of which are more clear than others.  These six are:  (1) Standards, Accountability, and Assessments; (2) Transitions and Alignments; (3) The Teaching Profession; (4) Chance for Success; (5) School Finance; and (6) K-12 Achievement.  

Without further ado, here are the Arkansas grades in each of the six categories for 2014, with Arkansas’s previous grade and the 2014 national average included for the sake of comparison:

Quality Counts Categories 2014 AR Grade AR Previous Year’s Grade 2014 National Average
Standards, Accountability, and Assessments Not updated in 2014 A B
Transitions and Alignments Not updated in 2014 A B-
Teaching Profession Not updated in 2014 B+ C
Chance for Success C- C+ C+
School Finance C C C
K-12 Achievement D+ D C-

Notice anything missing? In a big departure from previous years’ reports, Education Week has decided to stop assigning overall rankings to states. As you may remember, some celebration and much confusion ensued when Arkansas was ranked 5th in the nation in last year’s Quality Counts report. We at the OEP think that removing the overall ranking was a wise move on the part of Ed Week. It is much more meaningful to examine grades for individual categories than to try to combine such distinct aspects of an education system into one measure.

While the lack of an overall grade may make it seem that Arkansas is doing worse than last year (last year we were 5th and this year’s new grades are Cs and Ds), the fact is that our grades have stayed roughly the same on average. So what to make of this report is up to you. An optimist might say that we are remaining steady while a cynic may say that we are stagnating. With either interpretation, the new Quality Counts format is certainly more transparent and more helpful in pointing out our education system’s strengths and the areas in which we need to grow.

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