Report: RI spends big on schools, trails in student achievement

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island remains among the top 10 states in the country when it comes to spending on public schools, but it’s still in the middle of the pack for student achievement, according to a report released Thursday by Education Week, the nation’s preeminent publication for education news.

The report, titled Quality Counts, ranked every state and Washington, D.C., based on three key indicators: K-12 achievement, school spending and its chance for success index, which measures the role education plays in a person’s life from cradle to career.

Overall, the state earned a C+ based on the average of its scores on the three indicators, placing Rhode Island 13th in the country. The nation earned a C. Massachusetts was the top performer in the country and one of only four states to earn a B in the report. Three states – Mississippi, Nevada and New Mexico – received a D.

Even though it has made some of the largest gains in the country on the math and reading sections of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam, Rhode Island earned a D+ for student achievement, in part because the state has some of the largest poverty-based achievement gaps in the country.

By comparison, Massachusetts received top billing in the nation for its student achievement, earning a B. New Hampshire and Vermont ranked among the top five in the country in that category, while Maine and Connecticut each earned a C-, tied with the national average. Only Mississippi and Washington, D.C., received an F in the achievement category.

For student achievement, Education Week relied on the same da

ta it used in its 2014 report, including NAEP scores from 2013 and high school graduation rates between 2000 and 2010.

Using school spending data from 2012, the report found Rhode Island spent about $13,814 per pupil, roughly $2,000 more than the national average. About 3.9% of the state’s taxable resources went toward education, placing Rhode Island ninth in the country. Education Week gave the state a B+ when it comes to spending, along with Wyoming, West Virginia, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Maryland.

Rhode earned a B- on the report’s chance for success index, which analyzes socioeconomic factors such as family income and parental employment, school indicators like pre-school enrollment and math and reading proficiency levels, and adult outcomes such as postsecondary degrees and steady employment.

Approximately 59.8% of Rhode Island children lived in households with incomes at least 200% of the federal poverty level in 2013, placing the state 19th in the country. Only 70.6% of children had at least one parent working full time in 2013, slightly below the national average of 73.3%.

Massachusetts earned the country’s highest marks on the chance for success index while Nevada ranked last.

The 2015 report places a special focus on early-childhood education, an issue that has received increased attention since 2013 when President Obama called for the nation to spend $75 billion on pre-school funding over the next decade.

Rhode Island has earned praise for offering high-quality pre-school programming, but the state is among the worst in the country when it comes to enrolling students in state-funded pre-K. The report gave the state a D+ on its early education index, which analyzes enrollment figures in pre-K and kindergarten.

Education Week is considered one of the most respected sources for education coverage in the country. The newspaper was first published in 1981 and the organization has released its Quality Counts report every year since 1997.Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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