On January 7, the advocacy organization StudentsFirst released a State Policy Report Card assigning letter grades to states based on whether state policies in 24 areas matched the StudentsFirst policy preferences of school choice, test-based accountability and greater centralization of governance. As is common with the “grading the states” genre, the report card is designed to provide a simple news hook in the “grade.” While the relative rankings are predictable, based on the organization’s stated policy goals, the exercise of assigning grade labels to states is a political act designed to advance a particular agenda rather than a serious academic exercise. Despite errors in the data collection, the report does provide a compilation of the selected policy actions by state. However, given the biased purpose of the undertaking, it provides no useful policy examination or guidance to policymakers. As a member of a growing genre, however, each “state grades” report undermines the news value of these reports in the aggregate. In comparing various reports in this genre, all but three states can claim an A or a B in some education report card, and all states have also received Ds or Fs on some education report card.
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