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The Bottom Line Comparing Education Stats of States is Meaningless

EducationWeek reports that New Jersey now tops the national education rankings. But these rankings have little meaning, for several reasons:  

  1. Statewide scores are not reflective of local school districts.
  2. Funding methods are different for each state.
  3. Every state has a different economy and other conditions.
  4. It is nearly impossible to get current, precise school funding information.

The report states “money matters” and “location matters.” True enough. But again, comparing the money from one state to another doesn’t provide for sound analysis. Every state has unique characteristics and provides school funding within their economic limits.

A more meaningful (and alarming!) statistic from the report shows that as a nation we earned a total grade of “C” compared to other countries. The U.S., which once had some of the highest graduation rates of any developed country, now ranks 22nd out of 27 developed countries. Furthermore, only 26 percent of high school graduates meet the college readiness benchmarks in all four subjects of the ACT Test (English, reading, mathematics, and science).

In a recent post, we advocated for a longer school year. Many of the developed countries that rank higher than the U.S. have longer school years. Don Nielsen, program chair of ACTE, points to two very relevant examples in Every School: Japan and Singapore. In Japan, students go to school more hours per day and more weeks per year than do American students. The net effect is that a “Japanese child, upon graduation from high school, will have attended school for at least two American school years more than an American student in the same twelve-year period.” As for Singapore, children attend school one and a third years longer. Don comments that it’s “little wonder that students in other countries are out-performing American students in international exams.”

More than comparing states, we should be concerned with the ability of our public school system to provide a quality education for our children. Let’s stop comparing states and instead focus on transforming the system and increasing educational standards.

Bailey Takacs

Development Program Coordinator, American Center for Transforming Education
Bailey Takacs served as development program coordinator to Discovery Institutes' American Center for Transforming Education and Development team. Bailey has experiences which also include: campaign management and administrative roles with elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels of the government. He holds a B.A. in Politics and Government from Pacific Lutheran University.
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