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Contact: Alan Richard
(404) 879-5544
Released: 1/14/2010

Many SREB States Lead Nation in Education Week Rankings; More Work Ahead to Improve Achievement, College Readiness

ATLANTA — Many of the 16 Southern Regional Education Board states ranked among the nation’s leaders in education policy and performance in Education Week’s Quality Counts 2010 report released today.

Nine SREB states ranked among the top 20 nationally in the report’s overall grade, including half of the nation’s top 10: Maryland was the only state in the nation to earn the highest overall grade in the report, a B-plus. Virginia was fourth, Florida eighth, West Virginia ninth, Arkansas 10th, South Carolina 11th, Georgia 13th, Texas 14th and Tennessee 18th. The overall grade includes six separate measures of state progress in education policy: the Chance-for-Success Index, K-12 Achievement, Standards/Assessments/Accountability, Transitions and Alignment, Teaching Profession, and School Finance.

"Many of our states are setting the pace nationally for improving education. Governors, legislators, state schools and higher education chiefs and educators see the link between meeting higher goals and our economic future," SREB President Dave Spence said. "States are pushing hard to raise high school graduation rates, boost high school students’ readiness for college and career training, and ensure that more people who begin two- and four-year degrees in our region actually graduate."

Maryland ranked sixth nationally on the Quality Counts report’s Chance-for-Success Index, and Virginia ranked ninth. The index uses 13 indicators to predict students’ opportunities for a successful life, including preschool enrollment, student achievement, graduation rates, family education and income levels, and more. Many SREB states continue to struggle with this ranking especially because of family income levels.

Top-ranked West Virginia and third-place Louisiana were among only four states nationally that had near-perfect scores on school Standards/Assessments/Accountability policies. This category has been dominated by SREB states for many years because they were among the nation’s first to set academic standards, measure students’ performance and hold schools accountable for improvement. Reflecting their pioneering efforts, eight of the nation’s top 10 states are SREB states: Florida was fifth, Texas sixth, South Carolina and Arkansas tied for seventh, and Oklahoma and Virginia tied for ninth. Twelve of the 20 states that received an A in this category nationally are SREB states.

Even with this tradition of success in standards, assessments and accountability, SREB and state leaders are pushing ahead in this area. A committee led by Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue held discussions that led to a landmark 2009 SREB report calling for a "next generation" of school accountability to achieve better high school graduation rates and for students to be better-prepared for college and career training after high school. Already, Texas, Kentucky, Virginia and Florida are moving in this direction with new state laws and policies. For more details, see The Next Generation of School Accountability: A Blueprint for Raising High School Achievement and Graduation Rates in SREB States at www.sreb.org.

Seven SREB states ranked among the nation’s top 10 in Transitions and Alignment of policies and standards in the educational pipeline — from early childhood through college to the work force. Maryland was first, West Virginia second and Tennessee fourth, all the same as last year. Arkansas, Georgia and Texas tied for sixth. Virginia was 10th. SREB states still need to ensure smoother transitions for students into the first grade through high-quality and widely available pre-K programs, and to strengthen transitions from the middle grades into high school, and from high school to college and career training or the workplace.

Even with major improvements in many SREB states in reading and math achievement, most SREB states ranked relatively lower in the K-12 Achievement portion of Quality Counts. Still, Maryland ranked second nationally and earned a B in this category. Virginia was sixth, Florida seventh and Texas 13th, all earning a C. Delaware also had a C. While many SREB states have made some progress in student achievement in the early grades in reading and math, and in math in the middle grades, reading in the middle grades and high school is not adequate. For more details, see the 2009 SREB report A Critical Mission: Making Adolescent Reading an Immediate Priority in SREB States.

In the Teaching Profession category of the Quality Counts report, which examines 44 indicators of good state policies that affect classroom learning, eight SREB states ranked among the top 10 nationally. South Carolina again was first. Arkansas was second, Louisiana third, Maryland fifth, North Carolina sixth, West Virginia seventh, Georgia eighth and Oklahoma ninth. No SREB state ranked lower than 24th on this measure — which includes such indicators as teacher pay and incentives, recruiting and training. Even with major progress in many SREB states in the past decade, teachers remain generally underpaid, and few states are moving aggressively toward paying teachers based on their work performance, the report says.

In the School Finance category, Maryland ranked by far the highest among SREB states, at seventh nationally with a grade of B, up from ninth place last year. Some SREB states’ rankings have slipped in this category, possibly because of budget cuts during the economic downturn that have been common across the country.

On the report’s new Math Progress Index — which examines math achievement on national and state exams — Maryland tied for second nationally with a grade of 75.1, compared with the national grade of 64.7. These SREB states also beat the national grade: Florida, Kentucky, Delaware, Virginia and Georgia.

The Southern Regional Education Board, or SREB, based in Atlanta, was created in 1948 by Southern governors and legislatures to help leaders in education and government work cooperatively to advance education and improve the social and economic life of the region. SREB has 16 member states: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. More information is available online at www.sreb.org.

Southern Regional Education Board
592 10th Street NW
Atlanta, GA 30318-5776
(404) 875-9211

For additional information, please e-mail communications@sreb.org