Colorado More Leader than Laggard: A Report Card Eddie Can (Mostly) Enjoy

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you probably know I have a fondness for report cards. A certain kind, anyway. Just as long as it’s not my report card going home to my parents about my performance. Seriously, though, I like to talk about report cards related to education policy — some more helpful or accurate or comprehensive than others.

Today it’s a piece called Leaders and Laggards, put out by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with the help of a couple American Enterprise scholars, that ranks states on a big slate of K-12 education measures.

The study assigns each state a letter grade for each of 11 major categories, and in a couple of cases compares them to the last release in 2007 (Colorado’s grades listed in parentheses):

  1. Academic Achievement, using 4th and 8th grade NAEP scores (2014: A; 2007: A)
  2. Academic Achievement for Low-Income and Minority Students (2014: B; 2007: C)
  3. Return on Investment (2014: A) — You know, productivity!
  4. Truth in Advertising: Student Proficiency (2014:A) — based on a 2013 Education Next analysis about the rigor in different states’ standards and tests
  5. Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness, based on AP courses, graduation rates, and college enrollments (2014: B)
  6. 21st Century Teaching Force (2014: C+) — “While the Centennial State does well removing
    ineffective teachers, it is less adept at expanding the pool of teachers.”
  7. Parental Options (2014: A) — “The state has a strong charter school law and a relatively high percentage of students enrolled in schools of choice.” (but doesn’t take account of the lack of access to private educational options
  8. Data Quality (2014: B) — Must be talking about performance frameworks and longitudinal growth data
  9. Technology (2014: C-) — Guess we can do better to “provide quality instruction and personalized learning”
  10. International Competitiveness (2014: A) — Because a whopping “36% of students [are] proficient in reading and math compared with an international standard.”
  11. Fiscal Responsibility of government employee pension fund (2014: D)

You already may have figured out that the grades assigned to states were based on a curve (top 10 get an A, next 10 get a B, etc.) Big takeaway? Colorado is doing pretty well in some key areas, but we can do plenty more to be a leader in providing effective educational opportunities for as many kids as possible. Not too much different than where Rick Hess comes down.

Of course, you say, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s report card isn’t perfect. Agreed. Though I have a few quibbles, overall it’s a fairly strong and credible set of metrics. But I had to chuckle at this disclaimer on the Education Week blog:

A caveat is that some will find ideological or other reasons to be critical of the organizations and indicators used by the Chamber. The group relies on a variety of assessments and K-12 policy organizations for its rankings, including the National Council on Teacher Quality and Education Next magazine. Some have questioned NCTQ’s research practices, for example, and Education Next publishes articles supporting school choice. The Chamber also praises the states for adopting “higher standards,” a reference to the Common Core State Standards. [emphasis added]

A fair point on the whole. But what policy group has never had its research methods questioned? And maybe certain well-placed critics would find less objectionable sources that ignore the weight of positive research supporting school choice. I give the caveat paragraph an A+ for Deference and a D on the Eye Roll Test.

See what I mean? As long as the report card isn’t grading me, I can have fun with it all day long.