State spending on education v. academic performance (2012)

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Performance Measures Defined

Education in America began at the local and state levels, thereby leaving the development of performance measures to each individual locality. States created certain student performance criteria to determine how education initiatives worked; examples include graduation rates and standardized tests. In 2008, the federal Department of Education implemented the No Child Left Behind Act proffering new standardized content and performance measures, including graduation rate and test formulas, and incentivized states to adopt them with the prospect of large grants.

GRADUATION RATES

Every state in the nation individually decides how to calculate graduation rates. With multiple standards, comparing graduation rates is inaccurate and unreliable, and holding schools accountable for graduation rates that fall below comparison schools’ rates in similar districts and states is practically impossible.

In July 2005, all 50 states signed the National Governors Association’s Graduation Counts Compact on State High School Graduation Data. In the compact, governors agreed to take steps to implement a standard cohort graduation rate formula. Although the states signed the compact to create a comparable measurement, implementation was slow, and a number of states continued to utilize alternative graduation formulas in their annual education data.

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Education mimicked NGA’s compact, incentivizing the implementation of a standardized graduation rate across the states. In order to receive No Child Left Behind (NCLB) funding from the federal government, states were required to follow a [http://www2.ed.gov/policy/elsec/reg/proposal/uniform-grad-rate.pdf four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate] by the 2010-11 school year. Specifically, the cohort formula measures the number of students who graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma, divided by the number of students who entered high school four years earlier, adjusted for transfers.

Despite the promise of additional federal education dollars tied to complying with NCLB standards, a number of states still did not implement the cohort graduation rate formula immediately, although every state complied by the 2010-11 deadline. Even as each of the states gradually adopted the four-year cohort graduation rate as a comparable measurement, a number of states continued to utilize alternative graduation formulas in their annual education data as well. Although the uniformity increases accountability, the availability and publication of numerous graduation rates complicates the comparison process.

ACT SCORES

Founded in 1959 in Iowa City, Iowa, the American College Testing (shortened to “ACT” in 1996) is a private, nonprofit organization that offers college entrance testing. The ACT test contains five curriculum and standards-based assessments including English, mathematics, reading, science, and an optional writing test. The assessment is used as a college admission and placement test, and measures the skills and knowledge that students need for first-year college success.

In an effort to preserve objectivity, the study included ACT test scores because the test is approved for state models by No Child Left Behind and Adequate Yearly Progress accountability standards, used in every single state. The data is reliable, objective (as reported by ACT), easily understood, and comprehensive. Nearly every single high school in the nation administers the test and every four-year college and university in the U.S. accepts the ACT scores.

ADDITIONAL NOTE

It is always challenging to find comparable, meaningful, and timely data. The State Budget Solutions study, which originally published the data below, identifies the shortcomings of the data chosen and highlights the inherent problem associated with the lack of comprehensive and objective material available to the public. A footnote to the 2011 ACT data is included in the study that reads, “Note that only eight states tested 100 percent of the graduates, other states tested as few as 9 percent.” A similar note reads for the citation for the 2009 and 2010 data in the study, respectively. In fact, just days prior to the release of our study, the author of the study also wrote an article published on Sunshine Review addressing this issue, entitled “ Why Are So Few High School Students Taking the ACT?” (Published August 31, 2012).


State 2011 Total Spending (billions)[1] 2011 Ed. Spending (billions)[2] 2011 % Ed. Spending 2012 Total Spending (billions)[3] 2012 Ed. Spending (billions)[4] 2012 % Ed. Spending 2010 Avg. ACT score[5] 2011 Avg. ACT score[6] 2012 Avg. ACT score[7] 2010 Grad. Rate[8] 2011 Grad. Rate[9]
Alabama $40.5 $13.2 32.5% $40.6 $13.3 32.7% 20.3 20.3 20.3 67.1% 69.0%
Alaska $13.9 $3.2 23.1% $14.3 $3.3 23.0% 21.2 21.2 21.2 69.1% 69.1%
Arizona $52.9 $14.0 26.4% $50.9 $13.8 27.1% 20.0 19.7 19.7 69.6% 70.7%
Arkansas $21.6 $7.5 34.7% $21.9 $7.6 34.7% 20.3 19.9 20.3 74.4% 76.4%
California $422.1 $106.0 25.1% $422.1 $108.3 25.6% 22.2 22.1 22.1 70.7% 71.2%
Colorado $46.1 $12.2 26.4% $46.1 $12.9 27.9% 20.6 20.7 20.6 76.6% 75.4%
Connecticut $38.5 $11.6 30.1% $39.2 $12.2 31.1% 23.7 23.9 23.8 81.8% 82.2%
Delaware $9.8 $3.1 31.6% $9.8 $3.1 31.6% 23.0 22.4 22.6 71.9% 72.1%
Florida $160.7 $40.5 25.2% $159.7 $40.9 25.6% 19.5 19.6 19.8 65.0% 66.9%
Georgia $79.2 $25.6 32.3% $78.3 $25.3 32.3% 20.7 20.6 20.7 64.1% 65.4%
Hawaii $13.8 $3.2 23.1% $13.6 $3.4 25.0% 21.6 21.3 21.3 75.4% 76.0%
Idaho $11.5 $3.2 27.8% $11.3 $3.3 29.2% 21.8 21.7 21.6 80.4% 80.1%
Illinois $127.7 $35.2 27.5% $125.4 $35.6 28.3% 20.7 20.9 20.9 79.5% 80.4%
Indiana $52.3 $17.6 33.6% $54.4 $18.4 33.8% 22.3 22.3 22.3 73.9% 74.1%
Iowa $28.3 $9.3 32.8% $28.8 $9.6 33.3% 22.2 22.3 22.1 86.5% 86.4%
Kansas $25.7 $8.3 32.2% $25.6 $8.3 32.4% 22.0 22.0 21.9 78.9% 79.0%
Kentucky $38.3 $12.0 31.0% $38.6 $11.9 31.0% 19.4 19.6 19.8 76.4% 74.4%
Louisiana $46.2 $11.5 24.8% $46.4 $11.9 25.6% 20.1 20.2 20.3 61.3% 64.5%
Maine $11.6 $3.0 25.8% $12.1 $3.3 27.2% 23.2 23.3 23.4 78.5% 79.1%
Maryland $55.4 $18.0 32.4% $55.9 $18.5 33.0% 22.3 22.1 22.1 80.0% 80.4%
Massachusetts $76.3 $18.7 24.5% $76.9 $19.6 25.4% 24.0 24.2 24.1 80.8% 81.5%
Michigan $92.8 $32.4 34.9% $90.7 $31.9 35.1% 19.7 20.0 20.1 77.0% 76.3%
Minnesota $56.0 $15.9 28.3% $55.7 $16.1 28.9% 22.9 22.9 22.8 86.5% 86.4%
Mississippi $26.6 $7.6 28.5% $27.1 $7.7 28.4% 18.8 18.7 18.7 63.6% 63.9%
Missouri $48.5 $14.2 29.2% $47.6 $14.4 30.2% 21.6 21.6 21.6 81.9% 82.4%
Montana $9.0 $2.5 27.7% $8.7 $2.6 29.8% 22.0 22.1 22.0 81.5% 82.0%
Nebraska $19.0 $5.5 28.9% $19.6 $5.6 28.5% 22.1 22.1 22.0 86.3% 83.8%
Nevada $21.8 $5.8 26.6% $20.8 $5.7 27.4% 21.5 21.4 21.3 52.0% 56.3%
New Hampshire $11.3 $3.5 30.9% $10.9 $3.6 33.0% 23.7 23.7 23.8 81.7% 83.3%
New Jersey $100.1 $31.9 31.8% $99.6 $33.0 33.1% 23.2 23.2 23.4 84.4% 84.6%
New Mexico $21.4 $6.6 30.8% $21.1 $6.5 30.8% 20.1 19.8 19.9 59.1% 66.8%
New York $295.7 $69.8 23.6% $302.6 $72.8 24.0% 23.3 23.4 23.3 68.8% 70.9%
North Carolina $80.5 $25.0 31.0% $80.7 $25.2 31.2% 21.9 21.9 21.9 68.6% 72.8%
North Dakota $6.5 $2.0 30.7% $7.1 $2.3 32.3% 21.5 20.7 20.7 83.1% 83.8%
Ohio $111.4 $33.1 29.7% $111.5 $33.4 29.9% 21.8 21.8 21.8 78.7% 79.0%
Oklahoma $30.3 $10.3 33.9% $29.9 $10.2 34.1% 20.7 20.7 20.7 77.8% 78.0%
Oregon $39.1 $10.6 27.1% $38.3 $10.5 27.4% 21.5 21.5 21.4 73.8% 76.7%
Pennsylvania $130.6 $35.8 27.4% $130.7 $37.5 28.6% 21.9 22.3 22.4 83.0% 82.7%
Rhode Island $11.4 $3.1 27.1% $11.5 $3.2 27.8% 22.8 23.0 22.9 78.4% 76.4%
South Carolina $41.0 $12.1 29.5% $41.7 $12.6 30.2% 20.0 20.1 20.2 58.9% 62.2%
South Dakota $6.7 $2.0 29.8% $6.8 $2.0 29.4% 21.8 21.8 21.8 82.5% 84.4%
Tennessee $53.8 $12.7 23.6% $54.7 $13.1 23.9% 19.6 19.5 19.7 72.6% 74.9%
Texas $216.9 $80.2 36.9% $213.2 $76.6 35.9% 20.8 20.8 20.8 71.9% 73.1%
Utah $23.8 $7.6 31.9% $23.6 $7.6 32.2% 21.8 21.8 20.7 76.6% 74.3%
Vermont $6.6 $2.3 34.8% $6.6 $2.4 36.3% 23.2 22.7 23.0 88.6% 89.3%
Virginia $67.8 $23.1 34.0% $69.1 $24.1 34.8% 22.3 22.3 22.4 75.5% 77.0%
Washington $73.1 $18.8 25.7% $72.3 $19.1 26.4% 23.0 22.8 22.9 74.8% 71.9%
West Virginia $15.6 $5.1 32.6% $16.3 $5.5 33.7% 20.7 20.6 20.6 78.2% 77.3%
Wisconsin $55.6 $17.0 30.5% $55.0 $17.3 31.4% 22.1 22.2 22.1 88.5% 89.6%
Wyoming $8.6 $2.4 27.9% $8.6 $2.5 29.0% 20.0 20.3 20.3 75.8% 76.0

Students Over Unions, The New York Times

In an op-ed dated September 13, 2012, Nicholas Kristof levied for school reform, focusing on issues of equality, opportunity, and national conscience. The study above does not incorporate cultural and many tangential economic issues. Here, Kristof asserts that poor school performance is a result of poverty, rather than teachers' unions. First and foremost, Kristof suggests that early education is crucial for as-risk kids as well as holding teachers accountable, even before the poverty problem is resolved, a tenant that teachers in Chicago are resisting. Kristof cites that Chicago elementary students have a school day that is an hour shorter than the national average. Additionally, he asserts that teachers are not fighting solely for higher compensation, but are protecting poor performers.

A study released in December 2011 by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that a bottom 1 percent teacher has an effect on children the same as if a child misses 40 percent of the school year. A top 20 percent teacher has an effect the same as if the child has gone to school for an extra month or two. Removing the bottom 5 percent of teachers would allow students in a single classroom to collectively earn an additional $1.4 million over their careers.

Figuring out what makes a "weak" teacher is challenging, but new "value-added" measurements with at least three years of data is telling. Unfortunately, the union in Chicago is insisting that teachers that are laid off, often for being ineffective, should get priority hiring, a system that punishes the 350,000 children in the district.

References