HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania ranks 10th in the nation in education performance and policy, earning an overall grade above the national average, according to the latest “Quality Counts” report released by Education Week.
Education Secretary Gerald L. Zahorchak said the grade shows Pennsylvania is making strides in bolstering public education and better preparing its students, but more work remains to ensure all students leave high school with the skills needed to compete in the global economy.
The comprehensive annual report awarded a grade of B- to Pennsylvania, compared to the national grade of C. Pennsylvania outperformed the nation in five of the six grading categories and 14 of the 17 graded criteria.
“The latest ‘Quality Counts’ report shows we are moving to the head of the class nationally, but we cannot afford to rest on our laurels,” Zahorchak said. “We still have much work to do to ensure that every child graduates with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed beyond high school.”
Under Governor Edward G. Rendell, the state has made record investments in targeted education initiatives that are proven to bring results. These include unprecedented investments in early childhood education, the creation of a more rigorous high school curriculum and more resources to aid students in making the transition to higher education or the workforce.
“Judging from the latest national results, it’s clear our investments are moving the commonwealth in the right direction,” the secretary said.
This year’s “Quality Counts” report assessed the states in six areas:
• A Chance for Success index which awarded Pennsylvania a grade of B, compared to a national grade of C+. Pennsylvania ranked tenth in the nation in this grading category.
• The Elementary and Secondary Performance index uses NAEP scores, graduation data and AP test scores to evaluate the each state’s overall achievement and ability to close the poverty gap. In this category Pennsylvania scored a grade of C+, compared to the national grade of D+, obtaining the fifth highest score in the nation in this category.
• The Transitions and Alignment index measures the state’s ability to align their education system from early childhood programs through workforce and postsecondary needs. In this area, Pennsylvania earned a B-, compared to the national grade of C and ranked eighth in the nation.
• The School Finance index compared equity and spending among states. In this category Pennsylvania was given a B- and the national grade was C+ and ranked 15th nationally.
• The Teaching Profession index compared state’s teacher licensure requirements, evaluation procedures, salaries and incentives. In this category, Pennsylvania earned a C+, compared to the national grade of C and ranked 15th nationally in this category.
• The Standards, Assessments and Accountability index compared the alignment of assessments and accountability policies. In this category Pennsylvania was given a C+ compared to the national grade of B and ranked 32nd nationally.
Zahorchak said there are several important steps Pennsylvania should take to improve its standing among the states in the “Quality Counts” national report card. These include:
• Improving our school funding system by ensuring that all students have access to quality classroom resources.
• Adopting statewide high school graduation requirements to ensure that a Pennsylvania high school diploma means that students are ready for college and high-skill careers.
• Expanding early childhood education programs like pre-kindergarten, full-day kindergarten and elementary school class-size reduction.
• Providing financial incentives for successful principals in high-need schools.
• Requiring teacher preparation programs to provide more field experience and holding them accountable for how well their teachers do once they start working in schools.
“Too many of our high school graduates are ill-prepared for the demands of life after high school, whether they go on to college or enter the workforce,” Zahorchak said of the need for high school graduation requirements, which was the subject of a State Board of Education public hearing today. “This often puts them at a lifelong disadvantage, limiting their opportunities and the lifelong earnings capacity. We owe it to them, and to the commonwealth, to make sure they emerge from high school ready to succeed.”