Education Week just released its 16th annual Quality Counts report on the issues and challenges facing America’s public schools as well as grades of the states’ education systems.
This year Quality Counts graded the systems based on the following categories: chance for success; K-12 achievement; standards, assessments and accountability; the teaching profession; and school finance. Although Alabama scored above average in some categories, the state received an overall grade of C.
Additionally, the report features a series of articles from education leaders on a common theme. This year’s theme is international competitiveness, and many of the articles stressed the importance of looking to other countries – not just other states – for effective teaching and learning strategies.
Grading the States
Quality Counts gave American states an average grade of C this year. The report found no overall improvement since last year, although states generally showed great improvements in one of the five categories: Standards, Assessment, and Accountability.
While Alabama’s overall grade was C, its average score of 76.1 was still slightly below the national average. The state did score well in the Accountability and Teaching Profession categories, but ranked below average in K-12 achievement. The state also scored poorly in the Chance for Success category, which is based primarily on demographic statistics, and the School Funding category.
Learning from Other Countries
On international assessments, American students’ performance is generally middle-of-the-road. Scores vary with the test. Of the three main tests—PISA, TIMSS and PIRLS—the United States scored higher than average on two and below average on one. None of the tests, however, ranked the country among the top five highest scorers. America’s mediocre performance in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) is of special concern to many of the report’s contributing authors.
America’s challenges are not unique. The report highlights many of the common struggles faced by all countries, including closing achievement gaps, achieving college and workforce readiness, and acclimating immigrant students who speak a different language. Covering a range of topics from Canada’s child behavioral specialists to Singapore’s math curriculum, the articles also provide helpful insight into how other countries have successfully tackled some of their most pressing education issues.
In general, the report found that some basic traits are common to all high-performing countries. The best countries all work to recruit and retain talented teachers, and they also set clear, ambitious academic standards for their students.