StudentsFirst grades States: Georgia and Massachusetts get D+

Did you ever think you'd see the day when the shining beacon on a hill, Massachusetts, would get a state education ranking equal to that of Georgia???  I didn't.

Well, this is what StudentsFirst is proclaiming with its new State Policy Report Card.  If I list out all the states in which I've gone to school, worked, or otherwise have a remarkable connection to, here's what I find:
  • Georgia, D+
  • Massachusetts, D+
  • Virginia, D-
  • Mississippi, D
  • Michigan, C-
  • Florida, B-
  • District of Columbia, C+
More after the break...
 Oh, and here are the Top 5:
  • Louisiana, B-
  • Florida, B-
  • Indiana, C+
  • District of Columbia, C+
  • Rhode Island, C+
Interesting that a state makes the "top 5" scoring only a C+, but let's put that to one's side.  (StudentsFirst answers this by saying the report is a snapshot for progress toward the goals-- no state scored an "A").

So, what's to explain this system?

Well, the report card is based primarily on the state's education policy LAWS and policy environments, not on factors such as "student achievement, school quality, or teacher performance."  Specifically, the report card judges states based on how they evaluate the teaching profession, empower parents with data and choices, and "spend wisely and govern well" (such policy language).

 The purpose of the report, in StudentsFirst's own words (at page 14):
The intent is to provide clear, useful information that drives discussions about what states are doing to build a better education system.  The StudentsFirst State Policy Report Card serves as guides for parents, educators, and community members regarding the strength of education policies in their states. For policymakers who want to make their schools places where all students have a chance to succeed, the State Policy Report Card provides a roadmap for how to get there.

There is also an accountability element here as well. The more a state’s policies focus on what is best for students, the higher the grade the state receives. Likewise, if a state’s education policies act more like barriers to reform and protections for the status quo, the State Policy Report Card calls attention to that. States can be compared to one another.

Familiar to most Teach For America operatives, the policy report uses a rubric to guide its results:  
"For every policy objective, a team of analysts researched and assessed each state’s
statutes, regulations, and state-level polices according to the elements of the policy rubric." (see Executive Summary).

The New York Times interviewed some state leaders to get their opinion of the StudentsFirst report.  In the article released on Monday, NYT reported:
Richard Zeiger, California’s chief deputy superintendent, called the state’s F rating a “badge of honor.”
“This is an organization that frankly makes its living by asserting that schools are failing,” Mr. Zeiger said of StudentsFirst. “I would have been surprised if we had got anything else.”
StudentsFirst gave California the low rating despite the fact that it has a so-called parent trigger law that the advocacy group favors. Such laws allow parents at underperforming schools to vote to change the leadership or faculty.
 What do you think?

Me? It's just part of the education policy soup... something to digest, but nothing to get up in arms about.

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