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America’s public schools received some disappointing news late last year. In October 2019, the US Department of Education released the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the largest nationally representative and ongoing assessment of American students’ knowledge and abilities.
The latest 2019 release includes math and reading credits for students in reading and math in grades four and eight. While performance improved significantly from 1990 to 2013, reading in fourth grade, reading in eighth grade, and mathematics in eighth grade declined significantly between 2017 and 2019.
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In an official statement, US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos equated the findings with a “student achievement crisis”, noting that two out of three American students are not good readers. Class IV reading scores decreased in 17 states, while Class VIII reading scores decreased in 31 states.
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The test results in math were not much better. In 2019, only 41 percent of the fourth graders and 34 percent of the eighth graders were at or above the national math skills level. In 2017, these figures were 40 percent and 34 percent, respectively.
For parents whose children are nearby or already attending primary school, the results may seem worrying. But it is important to note that the national average does not reflect local performance. Despite poor results at the national level, students are doing well in some states.
In general, U.S. States in the northern United States show better academic performance. Massachusetts, New Jersey, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Wyoming and Connecticut consistently report above average. On the other hand, Alabama, New Mexico, Louisiana and Arkansas stand out with below-average test scores in both subjects and grade levels.
To identify the states with the best public education, Fabrik researchers compiled a composite score based on NAEP math and NAEP reading results for fourth- and eighth-grade students. Factory compound scores are also included in graduation rates and student-to-teacher ratios.
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After all, public education is a great pride for many in this country. In addition, private schools can easily cost thousands of dollars a year compared to a free public education. Even for families who may be able to afford such tuition fees, so much money can easily meet other important financial goals for families, such as building an emergency fund, paying off loans or applying for life insurance.
The 10 states that offer the best public education show test results up to 13 points above the national average. In every way, these states report student-teacher ratios better than the national average of 16: 1. In addition, all but one of the top 10 states have exam rates higher than the national rate of 85 percent.
Nebraska has above average NAEP scores in all four disciplines. In addition, it reports a graduation rate in the Midwest and the student-teacher ratio that is better than the national average. Students in Nebraska benefit from the State Board of Education’s strategic planning, which invests resources in, among other things, college, career, and community preparation.
Wisconsin students continue to perform above average in all goals, amid ongoing controversy over public school funding in the state. One of Wisconsin’s many educational strengths is its emphasis on connecting schools to the communities around them through various community education programs. In addition, Wisconsin’s four-year kindergarten program (4K) is associated with better student results.
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Students in this sparsely populated state of New England benefit from smaller class sizes and average education funding per student. In addition, the Vermont State Board of Education uses a skills-based learning model for college and career success. In contrast to traditional education systems, which promote students based on the lesson, skills-based learning focuses on students’ competence in specific learning outcomes.
Although Minnesota’s test results are already ranked among the highest in the nation, the state continues to pump resources through its Regional Centers of Excellence (RCE) to poorer performing schools. These centers provide support for curriculum, management and implementation to schools that need to go through a reform plan. In addition to the RCE, the state legislature in Minnesota also launched the Innovation Research Zone Pilot Project, which encourages K-12 schools to partner with organizations such as universities, local governments, nonprofits and companies to improve student learning.
In the wake of a state increase in English-speaking students and financially disadvantaged students, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) released a plan in 2015 to “ensure excellent teachers for all students.” Interestingly, in recent years, the VDOE has also taken steps to reduce the importance of standardized tests and require students to take standard learning tests in fewer subjects. Virginia is still doing well in the NAEP and is the only state in the south to make the top ten list.
This sparsely populated state has a student-to-teacher ratio of 12.5, well below the national average of 16. Unlike many other states, the Wyoming school economy is based on a “cost-based” funding formula rather than “money-based.” “Effective redistribution of necessary resources in less affluent school districts. In 2018, the state legislature adopted an initiative called Boot Up Wyoming 2022 to add computer science courses to all Wyoming schools.
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Connecticut is proud to have the country’s only integrated technical high school system. In addition, many efforts on the legislator’s education agenda place emphasis on career-focused learning and technical education. Other recent legislative changes include measures to meet the opportunity gap and directives to diversify the public school curriculum.
While New Hampshire outperforms most other states on standardized tests, students also benefit from a pedagogical approach that emphasizes practical, skill-based learning. For example, the state Department of Education recently launched an initiative called Learn Everywhere, which enables students to earn academic credit for activities and internships outside the classroom. In 2019, the state legislature in New Hampshire also passed several bills aimed at improving career preparedness, particularly through technical research.
In 1993, the Massachusetts Education Reform Act passed, which increased public school funding, especially for less affluent districts. There was an increase in overall state-wide responsibility for results, higher academic standards and better student results. Massachusetts’ reputation for quality education is also in post-secondary education, with a high concentration of prestigious colleges including Harvard, MIT, Wellesley, Northeastern and Boston College.
New Jersey has the highest graduation rate in the country, and the test results are well above the national average across the board. New Jersey’s focus on education begins early in a child’s development, and the State Department of Education recently expanded support for preschool programs in areas of high need. In addition, many public schools in New Jersey integrate elements of social and emotional learning into the curriculum, which is correlated with improved performance.
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, This exam is Administered by the National Center for Education Statistics under the Department of Education. The results of the NAEP are published every other year in the form of report cards from the nation. The graduation rate and student-to-teacher ratio are also from the National Center for Education Statistics. All data are for public school students only.
To identify the states with the best public education, Fabrik made a composite score based on the states’ NAEP math and reading results for fourth- and eighth-grade students. Factory compound scores are also included in graduation rates and student-to-teacher ratios.
For the most part, researchers found little improvement in performance from year to year. For example, no state showed improvement in all four tests, and only Washington, DC, and Mississippi showed improvement in three of four tests. These conditions are also at the bottom of the list when comparing conditions in all four tests. Most states experienced no change or decline in scores between 2017 and 2019.
At the test level, fourth-grade math is the only test that saw a significant increase in average public scores from 2017 to 2019. Eight states experienced significant increases in scores: Washington, DC, Mississippi, Nevada, Oregon, Tennessee, Arizona, Connecticut and Delaware. The rest of the states remained the same or declined.
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At the opposite end of the spectrum, reading points for eighth grade were among the worst on tests. The only state that saw an improvement in this score was Washington, DC. In comparison, 31 states saw a decrease in the score, and the remaining states made no significant changes.
The US Department of Education administered the first NAEP in 1969, with voluntary assessments for states in 1990. Since 1990, the country’s schools have seen improvements in math and reading performance. In 1990, 13 per cent of fourth-grade students were considered proficient in mathematics, compared with 41 per cent in 2019. Similarly, 29 per cent of class VIII pupils in 1990 were proficient in reading, compared with 34 per cent in 2019.
It has been difficult to make general improvements in mathematics and reading in recent years. Still, while recent NAEP results suggest room for improvement, many states can be proud of their performance. For example, the Mississippi saw an increase in their fourth- and eighth-grade reading scores after passing the Literacy-Based Promotion Act, which required third-graders to demonstrate a certain level of reading before advancing to fourth grade. Mississippi is one of 16 states with this type of claim.
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