January/February 2008
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Nation Gets a “C” on Measures of School Success; Fails on College Readiness

Nonprofit education organization Editorial Projects in Education’s extensive Quality Counts 2008 study analyzed state-by-state data on many variables that affect educational success for America’s public school students. Among the issues highlighted were teacher training and preparation; transitions from early childhood learning to school and from high school to college; and the general “chance for success” that a child growing up in a given state would have. On each of these measures, the study’s authors assigned a letter grade based on the indicators each state met. Overall, the nation as a whole scored a C+ on the Chance-for-Success Index (meaning the average American child has about a 78 percent chance of following a successful educational trajectory from cradle to career); a C on educational transitions; and a C for efforts to improve the teaching profession.

The study drew data from the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress, the 2005-6 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census department, and from state policy surveys carried out by researchers at Editorial Projects in Education between August and November 2007.


Chance-for-Success Index

  • Students in Massachusetts have the greatest overall chance for success (94 percent), while students in Mississippi have the least chance (68 percent).
  • On early-childhood indicators for success, there was a much smaller deviation (6 points) between the highest-ranking state and the lowest-ranking state than on schooling-years indicators for success (15 points).
  • The national average chance for success during the schooling years is 75 percent.

College Readiness

  • Only 15 out of 51 states formally define “college readiness.”
  •  Nationally, only 58 percent of high school students are college-ready, based on the metrics used in Quality Counts 2008.
  • Only three states (New York, Texas, and Rhode Island) require all high school students to take a college-prep curriculum to earn a diploma.

Improving the Teaching Profession

  • Most states (43 of 51) require formal evaluations of all teachers’ performance. However, only 12 states require that formal evaluations take place on at least an annual basis.
  • Most states (47) have an alternative-route program for teacher training, allowing career professionals from other fields to switch to teaching.
  • Teacher salaries are equal to salaries in comparable professions in only 10 states.
  • While 41 states have formal professional development standards for teachers, only 16 states require that districts or schools set aside time for professional development activities.



Detailed state-by-state breakdowns and a full copy of the report may be found at www.edweek.org/go/qc2008.



  • Fifty-two percent of American 18-to-24-year-olds are enrolled in college or have a degree.
  • Only 22 states track the condition of school buildings and facilities.
  • Eastern states meet significantly more measures of college and workforce readiness than western states.