University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Quality Counts – 2015 Edition!

In The View from the OEP on January 14, 2015 at 1:30 pm



Last week, Education Week released their 19th annual report Quality Counts.  This year’s report takes a broad look at the issues and forces shaping the discussion around early-childhood education, and includes summative grades and rankings for states on education indicators.

You may remember that last year, Education Week took a hiatus from assigning summative grades to states “in order to step back and reassess the education policy landscape,” providing instead only grades for specific categories.  Unfortunately, overall grades have returned this year and to make things even more confusing Education Week has changed the grading system.  We have mentioned in a previous blog post that we feel the system is problematic and the new changes do little to address our concerns.

Arkansas received a C- from Quality Counts this year and was ranked 36th overall.  This may seem like a surprising decline from only 2 years ago when Arkansas was ranked 5th in the country, but the grading criteria has changed and we CANNOT COMPARE these overall scores or rankings.  According to Education Week, the new “leaner form that focuses on outcomes” includes only three of the previous six categories.  This change turns the very tempting prospect of comparing Arkansas’ 2015 overall grade to prior years into comparing apples to applesauce.

What we CAN COMPARE over time is performance in the categories retained for the 2015 report: Chance for Success, School Finance and K-12 Student Achievement.  We examined these results and addressed Arkansas’ strengths and weakness in the OEP Policy Brief Quality Counts 2015.

Here are the most recent three years of  Arkansas grades in each of the categories graded for 2015.    When are compared over time we can see that regardless of the change in our overall grade,  Arkansas students are performing better than they were in 2013!

2015 Quality Counts Categories AR Grade 2013 AR Grade 2014 AR Grade 2015
Chance for Success C- C- C-
School Finance C C C
K-12 Achievement D- D+ D+

Although celebrating a D+ in student achievement is not where we would like it to be, the key takeaway from Quality Counts 2015 is that Arkansas students are making gains. If policymakers and education leaders can focus on meaningful data, like growth and efficiency in the face of disadvantage, rather than an overall grade, then students in Arkansas can continue to beat the odds.

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