Fixing the Bias in Current State K-12 Education Rankings
20 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2018 Last revised: 8 Dec 2018
Date Written: May 25, 2018
State education rankings published by U.S. News and World Report, Education Week, and others, play a prominent role in legislative debate and public discourse concerning education. These rankings are based partly on achievement tests, which measure student learning, and partly on other factors that do not measure student learning. When achievement tests are used as measures of learning in these conventional rankings, they are aggregated in a way that provides misleading results. To overcome these deficiencies, we create a new ranking of state education systems using disaggregated achievement data and excluding less informative factors that are not directly related to learning. Using our methodology changes the order of state rankings considerably. Many states with right-to-work laws in the South and Southwest score much higher. Furthermore, we create another ranking of states based on the efficiency of education spending. In this efficiency ranking, achieving successful outcomes while economizing on education expenditures is considered better than doing so through lavish spending. Again, Southern states that are ranked low in conventional rankings experience a reversal of fortune. Finally, our regression results indicate that unionization has a powerful negative influence on educational outcomes.
Keywords: K-12 Education, Education, State Rankings, NAEP, Unionization
JEL Classification: I2, I21
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