We have good teachers, data and technology. Yet, we lag in academics. Why?

ajc.com

Credit: Maureen Downey

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, released its fourth "Leaders & Laggards series, A State-by-State Report Card on K–12 Educational Effectiveness."

Georgia does not fare well on the most critical measure -- academic performance.  The state earns D's in academics and college and career readiness.

ajc.com

Credit: Maureen Downey

Georgia makes out better on the foundation blocks that ought to lead to high academic performance, including teacher force, data, parental options and technology. We earn largely B's.

Our only A comes in fiscal responsibility, and that is because of pension funding.

While Georgia earns an overall B-minus for the teaching workforce, it only earns C-plus for "well-prepared teachers" and "identifying effective teachers." In the teaching categories, the state earns its highest grade, B-plus, for "exiting ineffective teachers."

In the area of teaching, the report concludes, "Georgia does a good job of creating a strong teacher workforce."

It doesn't examine the reasons for what appears to be a disconnect, at least to me.

If Georgia earns decent grades for its teaching force, shouldn't its academic results align? Could the weak link be what teachers are asked to teach? Have Georgia's standards been too low? And wouldn't that be an argument for welcoming stronger standards?

Here is the official report:

The report, developed in collaboration with the American Enterprise Institute, evaluates educational effectiveness in 11 categories: academic achievement; academic achievement for low-income and minority students; return on investment; truth in advertising: student proficiency; postsecondary and workforce readiness; 21st century teaching force; parental options; data quality; technology; international competitiveness; and fiscal responsibility.

The report found that Georgia lags in academic achievement, postsecondary and workforce readiness, and truth in advertising: student proficiency. However, the state performs well in the parental options, data quality, and fiscal responsibility categories.

The Leaders & Laggards report shows that student performance in Georgia is below average. In particular, the state stands 6 percentage points below the national average in the percentage of 8th graders who as score proficient in math. Georgia also earns a low grade in preparing its students for college and careers, and although 21 students out of 100 pass an AP exam, the state’s high school graduation rate is 11 percentage points below the national average. However, Georgia does receive an above average grade in providing parents with strong school choice options and collecting and reporting high-quality education data.

Here are the details from the report card:

Academic Achievement

Despite improvement since our last report, student performance in Georgia is below average. The state stands 5 percentage points below the national average in the percentage of 8th graders who score proficient or higher on the NAEP math exam. The national average is 34%.

Academic Achievement for Low-Income and Minority Students

Georgia earns a mediocre grade in academic achievement for low-income and minority students. Thirty-three percent of Hispanic 4th graders score at or above the proficient level on the NAEP math exam, higher than the national average of 26%. However, 17% of 8th grade low-income students score at or above the proficient level on the NAEP math exam, below the national average of 20%.

Return on Investment

Student achievement in Georgia is low relative to state spending after controlling for cost of living.

Truth in Advertising: Student Proficiency

Georgia posts very poor marks on the credibility of its student proficiency scores. The grade is based on the difference between the percentage of students identified as proficient in reading and math on the 2011 state exams and the percentage identified as proficient on the 2011 NAEP reading and math tests.

Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness

Georgia earns a low grade preparing its students for college and careers. While 21 students out of 100 pass an AP exam, the state’s high school graduation rate is 11 percentage points below the national average.

21st Century Teacher Force

Georgia does a good job of creating a strong teacher workforce. The Peach State successfully removes ineffective teachers.

Parental Options

Georgia receives an above average grade providing parents with strong school choice options. Students have access to an online course marketplace where they can find digital providers. In addition, the charter school law has strengthened in the wake of a successful ballot measure in the November 2012 elections.

Data Quality

Georgia earns a good grade collecting and reporting high-quality education data. The state has a policy mandating the use of a longitudinal data system and is working to expand that capacity.

Technology

Georgia receives a good grade employing technology to provide quality instruction and personalized learning. Students have access to high-quality digital learning options across the state.

International Competitiveness

Georgia earns a low grade preparing its students to compete in a global economy, with only 25% of students scoring at the proficient level in reading and math compared with an international standard. Only 2 out of 100 students pass an AP foreign language exam.

Fiscal Responsibility

Georgia receives very high marks on fiscal responsibility. Eighty-one percent of the state’s pension is funded, and the state’s most recent pension contribution was 100%.

About the Author

ajc.com

Editors' Picks