Nearly All U.S. States Receive Failing Grade From New Education Advocacy Organization

A new report from an education advocacy group started by former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee that evaluates states based on their current education laws and practices gives nearly all states in the nation a "C" grade or less. But many officials are embracing their states' failing grades as a "badge of honor" because they don't agree with the organization's method for measuring student success, the New York Times reports.

Unlike reports that focus on individual or school-wide test scores or teacher effectiveness, StudentFirst's State Policy Report Card (82 pages, PDF) looked at how well each state's education policies serve students and schools according to three criteria: elevating and improving the teaching profession, empowering parents with information and choice, and ensuring that public dollars are spent wisely in ways that help students learn. The top two states according to the report, Louisiana and Florida, each earned a "B-" for their efforts to adopt student-centered policies that StudentsFirst argues will bring more rigor and accountability into school systems and expand parents' access to quality school choice.

While some education officials view the report as a kind of roadmap for student success, others have taken issue with the organization's model and rejected the validity of its rating system. For example, California schools superintendent Richard Zeiger told the Times that he "would have been surprised if [California] had got anything else" other than an "F" in the report. "[StudentsFirst] has focused on an extremely narrow, unproven method that they think will improve teaching," said Zeiger. "And we just flat-out disagree with them."

Even so, StudentsFirst expressed hope that the report will inspire policy makers to take a second look at education laws and practices in their states. "The most powerful way to improve student achievement from outside the classroom is to shape policy and implement laws at the state level that govern education," said Rhee. "That is why our report card focuses singularly on the education policies in place in each of our states. And when we look solely at policy, it's clear that we have a long way to go toward improving our education system in America."