Public Education across the US States is a vital service that affects the lives and futures of millions of children and adults. However, the quality of public education varies widely across different states and regions, depending on various factors such as funding, curriculum, standards, teacher qualifications, student demographics, and more. How can one compare the quality of public education across the US states and identify the best and worst performers?

Here are 3 steps to compare the quality of public education across the US states:

  • Define the indicators of quality,
  • Find reliable data sources
  • Compare the data across the US states.

Step 1: Define the indicators of quality

The first step is to define what aspects of public education are important to measure and compare. There is no single or definitive way to do this, as different indicators may reflect different priorities and perspectives.

Some common indicators that are often used to assess the quality of public education include:

  • Academic achievement: This refers to how well students perform on standardized tests in core subjects such as math, reading, science, and writing. Academic achievement can be measured at different levels, such as elementary, middle, high school, and college. It can also be disaggregated by subgroups such as race, ethnicity, gender, income, disability, and English language proficiency.
  • Graduation rates: This refers to the percentage of students who complete high school or college within a specified time. Graduation rates can indicate how well schools prepare students for higher education or the workforce, as well as how well they retain and support students who may face academic or personal challenges.
  • College readiness: This refers to the extent to which high school graduates have the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in college-level courses. College readiness can be measured by various indicators, such as SAT or ACT scores, Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) exam scores, dual enrollment participation, or college enrollment and completion rates.
  • School quality: This refers to the characteristics and conditions of schools that may affect student learning and well-being. School quality can include factors such as teacher qualifications, student-teacher ratios, per-pupil spending, curriculum rigor and alignment, school climate and culture, safety and discipline, extracurricular opportunities, parental involvement, and more.

Step 2: Find reliable data sources

The next step is to find reliable data sources that provide information on the indicators of quality for each state. There are many data sources available online that collect and report data on various aspects of public education.

Not all data sources are equally valid, reliable, or comparable. Some data sources may have different definitions, methodologies, or limitations that affect the accuracy and consistency of the data. Therefore, it is important to check the credibility and quality of the data sources before using them for comparison purposes.

Some examples of reliable data sources that provide information on the indicators of quality for each state include The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), U.S. News & World Report, and WalletHub.

Some of its major surveys and programs include:

  • The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP): This is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas. NAEP provides state-level results for math, reading, science, writing, civics, geography, U.S. history, and technology and engineering literacy.
  • The Common Core of Data (CCD): This is an annual collection of data about all public elementary and secondary schools and school districts in the United States. CCD provides information on enrollment, graduation rates, revenues and expenditures, staffing, school characteristics, and more.
  • The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS): This is a system of interrelated surveys conducted annually by NCES that gathers information from every college, university, and technical and vocational institution that participates in federal student aid programs. IPEDS provides information on tuition and fees, graduation rates, degrees and certificates awarded, student financial aid, enrollment, faculty and staff, institutional characteristics, and more.
  • The Report on the Condition of Education: This is an annual report that summarizes important developments and trends in education using the latest available data from NCES and other sources. The report covers all levels of education from early childhood to postsecondary, as well as labor force outcomes and international comparisons.
  • U.S. News & World Report: This is a media company that publishes news, analysis, rankings, and information on various topics, including education. U.S. News & World Report provides rankings and profiles of public schools at different levels, such as:
  • Best High Schools: This is a ranking of more than 17,800 public high schools in the United States based on factors such as college readiness, math and reading proficiency, graduation rates, and performance of underserved students.
  • Best Colleges: This is a ranking of more than 1,800 colleges and universities in the United States based on factors such as graduation and retention rates, undergraduate academic reputation, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, alumni giving, and social mobility.
  • Best States for Education: This is a ranking of the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on their performance in two subcategories: higher education and pre-K-12. The higher education subcategory measures factors such as graduation rates, tuition and fees, debt at graduation, and educational attainment. The pre-K-12 subcategory measures factors such as preschool enrollment, math and reading scores, high school graduation rates, and college readiness.
  • WalletHub: This is a personal finance website that offers tools and advice on various topics, including education. WalletHub provides rankings and reports on various aspects of public education quality at the state level, such as:

States with the Best & Worst School Systems: This is a ranking of the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on the quality and safety of public schools. The quality subcategory measures factors such as math and reading scores, graduation rates, dropout rates, pupil-teacher ratios, median SAT and ACT scores, and more. The safety subcategory measures factors such as bullying incidence rate, share of armed students, school shootings, disciplinary incidents, youth incarceration rate, and more.

  • Most & Least Educated States in America: This is a ranking of the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on their educational attainment and quality. The educational attainment subcategory measures factors such as the percentage of adults with a high school diploma, associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or higher. The quality subcategory measures factors such as the quality of public schools, average university quality, racial and gender gaps in educational attainment, and more.

Step 3: Compare the data across the US states

The final step is to compare the data across states using tables, charts, maps, or other visual tools that can help display and analyze the data effectively. Depending on the purpose and scope of the comparison, one can compare all states or a subset of states on one or more indicators of public education quality. One can also compare the trends and changes in the data over time or across different subgroups of students or schools.

Some examples of visual tools that can help compare the data across US states include:

  • NAEP Data Explorer: This is an online tool that allows users to create custom tables, charts, and maps using NAEP data. Users can select the subject, grade, year, jurisdiction, and other variables to compare the performance of students across states or other groups. Users can also access NAEP frameworks, questions, and reports to learn more about the content and context of the assessments.
  • IPEDS Data Center: This is an online tool that allows users to access IPEDS data through various options, such as creating custom tables and charts, downloading data files, or viewing preformatted reports. Users can select the institution type, level, control, location, and other variables to compare the characteristics and outcomes of colleges and universities across states or other groups.
  • MapEd: This is an online tool that allows users to create interactive maps using various educational data sources. Users can select the data source, topic, geography, and other variables to compare the distribution and variation of education indicators across states or other regions.

Comparing the quality of public education across the US states can be a complex and challenging task that requires careful selection and analysis of data sources and indicators. However, by following these steps and sources, one can gain a better understanding of how well different states are educating their students and what factors may contribute to their success or failure.

Comparing the quality of public education across US states can also help identify best practices, gaps, and areas for improvement that can inform policy and practice decisions at various levels.

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