What good are state education rankings?

I got my copy of Reason Magazine yesterday.  The headline article (behind a paywall), "Everything You Know about State Education Rankings Is Wrong" by Stan J. Liebowitz and Matthew I. Kelly, supports yet another indictment of the MSM as perpetrators of fake news.

The two authors focus on the U.S. News and World Report "Best Schools" blather and detail for us how this nonsense on public schools is generated. The authors demolish the house of cards in five well written pages that includes graphs.

Liebowitz and Kelly show two major flaws in the U.S. News publication.  The first is that the schools of any one state get higher ranking purely because they spend more money per student.  How this relates actual measured results remains enigmatic.  The authors write, "[I]ntentions to raise performance is [sic] not the same as raising performance."  In other words, a state that spends more outranks one that spends less even though the test scores are the same.

The second is an equally disturbing distortion.  The rankings use raw test scores across entire states without considering the racial composition of the students in the state.  It's common that Asian students score higher than whites, who in turn outperform Hispanics, who do better than black students.  The last get the lowest scores on academic achievements.  We would expect states with majority-Asian or white students to get higher scores than states with greater percentages of Hispanic or black students?  Any honest evaluation of how well a school system is doing should disaggregate the student racial percentages and adjust the ranking so we have a better notion about how much the school system is adding to the test results and how much the student himself brings to the table.  The U.S. News rankings never control for the racial composition of the students in the various states.  

The authors remove the money spent on students and correct the test scores to account for the racial composition and produce an entirely different and surprising ranking of public school performance.  They also graph the performance of the schools against the money spent per student.  There is no correlation.  

It turns out that Texas and Florida do a very good job with the money they spend.  Wisconsin, Maine, Vermont, New York and my own state of Michigan rank in the lowest ten.

The two authors lament that their analysis will be ignored and not influence policy.  Not if I have any say.

Erwin Haas is a former flight surgeon in Vietnam, Kentwood city commissioner, and assistant clinical professor of medicine at Michigan State.  He is running as a Libertarian for Michigan's 26th state Senate district.  He blogs here.

I got my copy of Reason Magazine yesterday.  The headline article (behind a paywall), "Everything You Know about State Education Rankings Is Wrong" by Stan J. Liebowitz and Matthew I. Kelly, supports yet another indictment of the MSM as perpetrators of fake news.

The two authors focus on the U.S. News and World Report "Best Schools" blather and detail for us how this nonsense on public schools is generated. The authors demolish the house of cards in five well written pages that includes graphs.

Liebowitz and Kelly show two major flaws in the U.S. News publication.  The first is that the schools of any one state get higher ranking purely because they spend more money per student.  How this relates actual measured results remains enigmatic.  The authors write, "[I]ntentions to raise performance is [sic] not the same as raising performance."  In other words, a state that spends more outranks one that spends less even though the test scores are the same.

The second is an equally disturbing distortion.  The rankings use raw test scores across entire states without considering the racial composition of the students in the state.  It's common that Asian students score higher than whites, who in turn outperform Hispanics, who do better than black students.  The last get the lowest scores on academic achievements.  We would expect states with majority-Asian or white students to get higher scores than states with greater percentages of Hispanic or black students?  Any honest evaluation of how well a school system is doing should disaggregate the student racial percentages and adjust the ranking so we have a better notion about how much the school system is adding to the test results and how much the student himself brings to the table.  The U.S. News rankings never control for the racial composition of the students in the various states.  

The authors remove the money spent on students and correct the test scores to account for the racial composition and produce an entirely different and surprising ranking of public school performance.  They also graph the performance of the schools against the money spent per student.  There is no correlation.  

It turns out that Texas and Florida do a very good job with the money they spend.  Wisconsin, Maine, Vermont, New York and my own state of Michigan rank in the lowest ten.

The two authors lament that their analysis will be ignored and not influence policy.  Not if I have any say.

Erwin Haas is a former flight surgeon in Vietnam, Kentwood city commissioner, and assistant clinical professor of medicine at Michigan State.  He is running as a Libertarian for Michigan's 26th state Senate district.  He blogs here.