With the election approaching, according to the 19th edition of the Report Card on American Education, this has been a “landmark year” for education.
Released every year by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the report offers a letter grade to each state based on educational reforms that are supported by ALEC, including laws that allow for more charter schools, school vouchers, and laws holding teachers accountable. States are also ranked on how well low-income students perform on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam.
The introduction to the report was written by Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who boasted about the voucher system in the state in use by tens of thousands of students to attend charter schools. He also included a plug for his statewide pilot program that offers pre-kindergarten vouchers to low-income students, and a new legislative effort to place more effort on career and technical education.
The highest grade given out this year was a B+, received by Indiana for its school reform laws. The state has been in favor of charter schools, has not placed high regulations on homeschoolers, and created a new school voucher system. While the state received a B+ overall, it received a C- for its academic standards, a B- for teacher quality and a C for digital learning.
Florida was rated second in the nation for education policies, and 10th for education performance. ALEC gave the state a B for its results in NAEP exams, the McKay scholarship program, and improved charter school laws.
Despite only two states receiving a grade above a B-, the report was still happy with the positive growth found this year as 11 states created or expanded programs focusing on school choice and vouchers.
North Carolina came with a C+ for its education policies, but was commended by ALEC for its “comprehensive set of K-12 reforms,” including a private school voucher program and a new system of A through F letter grades for public schools, in a separate section entitled “North Carolina lawmakers go big on K-12 reform in 2013.”
ALEC refers to the new letter grades as “a crucial step toward increasing transparency in the system.” However, the state’s education establishment views the program differently, claiming a school’s performance cannot be accurately measured with a single letter grade.
ALEC also praised the state’s private school choice program, giving it an A, for offering “Opportunity Scholarships” to low-income students in an effort to help them afford private schools.
“Between these private choice programs and improvements in the state’s charter school laws giving parents ultimate control over their child’s education, it is clear that bottom-up pressure for public school improvement is on the way,” ALEC says in the report.
The report from ALEC was co-written by Matthew Ladner, senior policy adviser for Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education.