The Education Week 2019 Quality Counts report ranked Georgia No. 33 among 50 states and the District of Columbia with a grade of C-plus. AJC file photo

Georgia’s schools get so-so rating

When it’s time to rank anyone for anything, most of us want to be on top. Some of us are content to be somewhere in the middle. But nobody wants to be dead last.

Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit publisher of Education Week, perhaps the most respected source for education news, has released its annual Quality Counts report.

This isn’t a survey that’s tacked onto a customer service call or email that you keep trying to delete. The report is a yearlong look at several aspects of education in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It takes test scores, graduation rates, per-pupil spending and socioeconomic factors and gauges the strengths and weaknesses of education systems across the county.

It’s so massive that it must be doled out in three installments. The last one came out this week.

It put the country’s education systems overall at a C-minus.

“While a handful of high-achievers continue to build on their success, and while some states that perennially fall short find ways to shine in key areas, the end result remains a C — keeping the issue of how to spark improvement before policymakers for another year,” wrote the researchers.

So here’s how Georgia fared:

In many areas, the Peach State was pretty even and in some places a little ahead of the national average. Georgia ranks 13th in the nation for K-12 achievement and the overall ranking put us at 30th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, with an overall score of 73.5 out of 100 points.

From the report: “Diving into the findings for the three graded indices, Georgia earns a C-plus in the Chance-for-Success category and ranks 33rd. The average state earns a C-plus.

“In School Finance, Georgia receives a D-plus and ranks 37th. For the K-12 Achievement Index, it finishes 13th with a grade of C. The average state earns a grade of C in both School Finance and K-12 Achievement.”

And if you pit us against the rest of the South, we pretty much stand head and shoulders above Louisiana, which came in dead last and even Alabama at No. 43.

In math were were third most improved from 2003 to 2017 with 11.4 points.

“We’ve set a course in our state toward a different kind of educational system – one that prioritizes a whole-child, well-rounded education instead of piling more and more layers of testing, accountability, and bureaucracy onto our schools,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “Our work is certainly not finished, but we’re moving in the right direction, and I continue to see indicators that this strategy is working.”

But before we start patting ourselves on the back, we need to look at some weaknesses.

We were 41st in per-pupil spending at $10,114 (which is adjusted for regional variances in cost of living). And we were also 41st in high school graduation rates, although we’ve been getting consistently better. Other areas of concern are family income levels (38th) and family education (35th).

Although the data is a few years old, this report hasn’t been compiled since 1997 to kick anyone in the teeth. It’s supposed to be an eye-opener, said Sterling Lloyd, assistant director of Education Week’s Research Center.

“We hope readers compare themselves to others to see what policies they need for future improvements,” he said. “In these times of economic competition, education matters. These may be numbers, but they represent real students and what opportunities for jobs or careers they’ll have.”

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