Massachusetts called “America’s showcase” for education

Massachusetts schools continue to rank at or near the top on virtually all measures of success, according to the journal Education Week.

“Our teachers, administrators and students should be very, very proud,” said MTA President Paul Toner. “We are first in the nation on many measures and also do very well in international comparisons.”

EdWeek’s annual Quality Counts publication was released on Jan. 11. It contains several charts and graphs showing Massachusetts at the top perch among all 50 states plus Washington, D.C. Here are some highlights from that report and others.

  • Massachusetts students are first or tied for first in mathematics and English language arts in all three grades tested – grades four, eight and 12 – on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called The Nation’s Report Card.
  • Massachusetts was first in the nation on EdWeek’s K-12 Achievement Index, a measure that includes current levels of performance, improvements over time and achievement gaps between poor and non-poor students. Under this metric, Massachusetts was given 85 points; the U.S. average was 68.7; and the lowest-scoring state, Mississippi, received 55.3 points.
  • Massachusetts was the only state to receive an “A” on EdWeek’s Chance-for-Success Index, which looks at early foundations, school years and adult outcomes. The Bay State received a score of 94 out of a possible 100 points; the U.S. average was 78.3; and the lowest-scoring state, Nevada, received 65.6 points.
  • Massachusetts scored better than all other Western countries participating in the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), though below some of the Asian countries and city-states that took part. For example, in grade eight science, Massachusetts had a score of 556 and was ranked third, below Singapore (567) and Chinese Taipei (561) but ahead of Japan (554), Korea (553) and all of the Western nations that participated, including England (542) and the U.S. as a whole (520). This was the first TIMSS test in which individual states were allowed to participate as if they were countries. Massachusetts and Minnesota were the only two to do so. Several high-performing European nations, including Finland, did not participate in this study.

International comparisons have been in the news recently because the U.S. as a whole performed in the middle of the pack on another exam released in December, the Program for International Student Assessment. A sample of 15-year-olds from 65 countries participated in PISA, including students from Shanghai, but not the rest of China. The Shanghai students were first in all categories. Individual state results were not calculated for the PISA test so it is unknown where Massachusetts would have ranked if it had been able to take part as a separate jurisdiction.

An article in The New York Times about the PISA results noted that Shanghai is a magnet for the best students and thus is not representative of all of China. Nonetheless, officials still described the results as a “Sputnik moment.”

The same Times article went on to say, “If Shanghai is a showcase of Chinese educational progress, America’s showcase would be Massachusetts.”