Quality Counts Grades Unfair to Poor States, Researchers Argue

Education Next News Alert


For Immediate Release: January 12, 2010

Contact: Margaret Raymond, (650) 725-3431, macke@stanford.edu

STANFORD—As Education Week magazine prepares to release its annual report card for states, Quality Counts 2010, education researcher Margaret Raymond and a team of researchers from CREDO at Stanford University warn that one set of grades on the report card is not reliable.

Quality Counts assigns grades to states in six areas, including “chance-for-success,” which attempts to measure a state’s capacity for helping young people succeed. But according to Raymond and her colleagues, the Chance-for-Success Index does not accurately measure the school system’s contributions to outcomes for students.

“Nowhere do the Quality Counts editors show how or why the Chance-for-Success Index is a good predictor of success,” Raymond and her colleagues write in “Quality Counts and the Chance-for-Success Index,” which appears in the forthcoming issue of Education Next and is now available online at www.educationnext.org. “Instead, they provide statistics that divert attention away from the things that actually do matter, such as high-quality teaching, a good range of school options, and success in early elementary schools.”

While grades on the Chance-for-Success Index are sometimes interpreted as measures of school quality, researchers from CREDO found that the grades are closely related to measures of family income and the level of education achieved by parents in a state, and do not represent the contribution of a state’s schools to the success of its youngsters.

Raymond and her team removed the family background variables from the Quality Counts Chance-for-Success Index to create a new index that includes only school-related factors. States’ rankings changed substantially, suggesting that the original index was giving credit (or blame) to schools for the background characteristics of the students they serve.

The states that gain the most in the revised index, are Florida and Texas, which moved up 14 places in the rankings. Hawaii was the state to fall farthest in the new rankings, dropping 18 places, from 26th place to 44th place.

Raymond and her colleagues recommend that the Quality Counts report card be updated so that the Chance-for-Success Index better measures a state’s capacity for helping its young people succeed. “Narrowing the scope of the Chance-for-Success Index to factors both causally related to school achievement and under the control of state education officials or school districts would improve its value and deliver the right signals to states.”

Read “Quality Counts and the Chance-for-Success Index,” available online at www.educationnext.org.

Margaret Raymond is director of the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University.

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