Every state in the country could take a lesson from Massachusetts, especially states in the southwest. The state of Massachusetts and its educational system understand that success often starts with a good education, and this belief is what has led to the rising test scores and percentages when it comes to the state of Massachusetts and the children who go to school there.
The Education Week Research Center, is a nonpartisan group that works to accurately measure indicators such as preschool and kindergarten enrollment, high school graduation rates, and higher education attainment. This group produces its results yearly and also takes into account family income and parental employment. These aspects are incorporated into the study because they have been linked to educational achievement and can help the group produce accurate results.
What’s amazing is that the state of Massachusetts beats the national average in almost every category listed. Some of the categories are: More than 60 percent of children living in Massachusetts have a parent with a post-secondary degree, which is fourteen points higher than the average. Also nearly 60 percent of three and four year olds are enrolled in preschool, which is more than ten points higher than the national average.
It doesn’t stop there, because almost half of Massachusetts children who are in the fourth grade are proficient on their National Assessment of Educational Progress reading tests. Also more than 54 percent of Massachusetts eighth graders got proficient scores on their NAEP math tests. Both of these tests results were the highest rates in the country.
So what has Massachusetts been doing right, that so many other states have been failing at? The main reason researched is the state’s bipartisan commitment to education reform. In 1993, Massachusetts passed a major reform package. This reform package increased spending. This spending was primarily focused in poorer districts which raised assessment standards. The increased spending also went to making licensure exams more difficult for new teachers. Massachusetts was not the only state to improve their standards around this particular time, but the difference was that partisan priorities shifted in other places. What Massachusetts did right was have both Republicans and Democrats continue investing heavily in education, equally.
There is still a drastic achievement gap among low-income and minority students compared to higher income schools, which is the case for every other state and improving their scores is still a challenge.
However, even though every school faces the same challenge in improving lower-income scores the Eastern Seaboard states perform best in the Education Week rankings. States like New Jersey, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont, Maryland and Virginia join Massachusetts in the top ten, along with Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa.
Unfortunately the Southwest has not seen the same success. Three of the bottom five states- Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada – fall into this geographical region. It is hard to determine an exact reason for these results. In general highly ranked states spend more per capita on their students than average. However, this is not a deciding factor and higher spending doesn’t necessarily equal success. For example, Alaska spent more than seventeen thousand dollars per pupil in fiscal year 2012. But the state still landed in the bottom half of Education Week’s rankings.
I really think that states here in the west and throughout the country should take a good look at Massachusetts and see what is working for them. Apparently they have it figured out.