Quality and Proficiency in Our Public Schools

In Lost Opportunity, the Schott Foundation for Public Education uses a single common yardstick to measure the quality of education in the United States and another to measure equity—the chance that a student from a disadvantaged group will have access to a quality education.  Unfortunately, neither “quality” “nor equity” are often measured when it comes to public education, at least not not in combination and not on a state-by-state basis.

Lost Opportunity looks at each state and its success in getting ALL students academically proficient.  Using NAEP as the yardstick, Lost Opportunity uses the percentage of students scoring proficient or better on the eighth grade NAEP exam as the measure of overall quality achieved by a state’s public schools.   

States Sorted by 8th Grade NAEP Proficiency
(Percentage of all students at or above proficient)
Rank Jurisdictions All Students at or
Above Proficient
  National Public 29%
1 Massachusetts 43%
2 Vermont 42%
3 Montana 39%
3 New Jersey 39%
5 Maine 37%
5 New Hampshire 37%
5 South Dakota 37%
5 Minnesota 37%
5 Connecticut 37%
10 Iowa 36%
10 Pennsylvania 36%
10 Ohio 36%
13 Nebraska 35%
13 Kansas 35%
13 Colorado 35%
16 Oregon 34%
16 Washington 34%
16 Virginia 34%
19 Wyoming 33%
19 Maryland 33%
19 Wisconsin 33%
22 Idaho 32%
22 North Dakota 32%
22 New York 32%
25 Missouri 31%
25 Delaware 31%
25 Indiana 31%
28 Utah 30%
28 Illinois 30%
30 Florida 28%
30 Kentucky 28%
30 Texas 28%
30 North Carolina 28%
30 Michigan 28%
35 Alaska 27%
35 Rhode Island 27%
37 Oklahoma 26%
37 Georgia 26%
37 Tennessee 26%
40 Arkansas 25%
40 South Carolina 25%
42 Arizona 24%
43 West Virginia 23%
44 Nevada 22%
45 California 21%
45 Alabama 21%
47 Hawaii 20%
48 Louisiana 19%
49 Mississippi 17%
49 New Mexico 17%
51 District of Columbia 12%

One important point that should not be missed by anyone seeking to improve the quality of K-12 education in the United States: even in the most-proficient state in the nation – Massachusettsonly 43 percent of eighth graders are scoring proficient or better on the reading NAEP.  That means that, for now, quality is defined by having a two-in-five chance of reading at grade level by junior high school.  We still have miles to go before we are providing all students a true opportunity to learn, and expecting all students to be academically proficient.