Quality Counts Report on Education

Montgomery, AL - The national publication Education Week is releasing its annual Quality Counts edition report card.

Each year this annual report card of public education in the 50 states measures different criteria.

This year's theme is "Tapping in to Teaching: Unlocking the Keys to Student Success."

The report's state grades for Alabama are either slightly above or slightly below the national average in almost all categories. The overall score of C is at the national average.

For 2008, the grading system evaluates states on Chance for Success; K-12 Achievement; Standards, Assessment, and Accountability; Transitions and Alignment; Teaching Profession; and School Finance.

This year's theme is "Tapping in to Teaching: Unlocking the Keys to Student Success." The report's state grades for Alabama are either slightly above or slightly below the national average in almost all categories. The overall score of C is at the national average.

*Standards Assessment and Accountability

Alabama's Grade A- National Average B

*Teaching Profession

Alabama's Grade B- National Average C

*Transitions and Alignment

Alabama's Grade C+ National Average C

School Finance

Alabama's Grade C National Average C+

Chance for Success

Alabama's Grade C- National Average C+

K-12 Achievement

Alabama's Grade F National Average D+

Composite Score

Alabama's Grade C National Average C

(*exceeds the national average)

The amount of funding going to K-12 education in Alabama earned a grade of C and the overall score for all six major indicators is a C.


According to this report, approximately half of the United States (24 states and the District of Columbia) earned either a D or F in K-12 Achievement. Negative trends in the poverty gap changes, Alabama's graduation rate, and Advanced Placement (AP) scores are some of the indicators that contribute to the low assessment for Alabama. This measure is based mostly on NAEP data at either the "Proficient" and "Advanced" levels. Also, the NAEP definitions for both "Proficient" and "Advanced" levels are much more stringent than state-approved definitions from the U.S Department of Education. NAEP is based on a small random sampling of schools and is given to a small, randomly selected sample of students within the selected schools.

The 2008 Quality Counts report (which issued no As in the K-12 Achievement category) focuses on 18 indicators, including National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores, graduation rates, and advanced placement test scores to draw its conclusion. Despite the fact that in 2007 Alabama received the highest gains in 4th grade reading in America and in the history of NAEP, there is still work to do. The next NAEP assessments will be given in February/March 2009 with results released in September 2009.

Joe Morton, State Superintendent of Education, said, "When 2007 NAEP scores were released in September 2007 Alabama led the nation in 4th grade gains. That milestone will become the foundation for future additional gains in student achievement in reading and math." Noting that Alabama is still committed to improving, Dr. Morton reiterated what he said in September. "We are in a marathon, not a sprint. We are committed to first being a state consistently showing improvement and secondly becoming a national leader in student achievement. I think we are well on our way to doing both," Morton said. "Our overall score of C clearly positions us above 24 other states. Alabama will never again be a bottom 10 or bottom 20 state in education."

Although the report lists a predominately subjective interpretation and provides a snapshot of key areas in education, the efforts currently underway to address critical needs are not mentioned. In all of the areas where problems have been identified, programs have been (or are in the process of being) implemented to address the specific issues. Last year's quantum leap in 4th grade reading scores is evidence that programs, such as the Alabama Reading Initiative, are effective. Alabama expects to see similar results in higher grades once the program is fully implemented.

Last year Alabama designated unprecedented funds toward training teachers, administrators, and counselors and through the purchase of instructional materials to increase participation and scores in AP courses. Efforts by the State Department of Education and the College Board are being made to make AP courses more readily available to students who have traditionally been left out, to increase test scores, and to ensure seamless transition on the acceptance of AP credits from high school to college. Alabama was one of only seven states to receive a $13.6 million Exxon Mobile grant to expand AP courses in Alabama high schools. This school year, the Graduation Coach and the Preparing Alabama Students for Success (PASS) pilot programs were implemented to help stem the flow of student drop-outs.

Alabama exceeds the national average on half of the indicators. Alabama's overall state grade of 75.7 falls in the middle of the nation. The grading summary from the report shows 25 states with a higher total score than Alabama and 24 states and the District of Columbia with a lower total score.

Some indicators include criteria that reach beyond immediate K-12 classroom walls. The Chances for Success category has 13 criteria, including such items as poverty level, family income, parent employment, parent education, kindergarten enrollment, above national average family income, and young adult education.

Like other states, Alabama schools have their challenges, but are overall headed in the right direction. Charting the course toward excellence in education is a mammoth undertaking and will take time and dedication to accomplish. Although the methodology of this particular report has been scrutinized by many states, any opportunity to identify areas of perceived weakness is welcomed. Alabama looks forward to the challenge as we work to make our schools among the best in the nation.