NEPC Review: Everything You Know About State Education Rankings Is Wrong (Reason Foundation, November 2018) and Fixing the Currently Biased State K-12 Education Rankings (University of Texas, September 2018)
The libertarian Reason Foundation recently published a policy brief that offers an alternative ranking of states’ education systems. The brief is based on a working paper from the Department of Finance and Managerial Economics at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD). These two reports begin with the presumption that high average test scores combined with lower school spending should be the basis for state rankings, which are reasonable premises, depending upon how the analyses are approached. But the reports then head off the rails. Offering a ‘corrected’ representation of student outcomes and a crude analysis asserting that spending has no relation to those outcomes, the reports declare states such as New Jersey and Vermont to be poor-performing, highly inefficient systems by comparison to states like Texas. The reports then estimate a regression model to confidently assert that the higher performing states are those with a) weaker teachers’ unions and b) more children in charter schools. However, the reports’ corrected outcome measures, weighting significantly unbalanced racial groups as equal and treating racial groups as equated across states without regard for economic status, are specious at best. Regressing multiple, highly related, interdependent measures against a specious outcome measure leads to even more suspect findings, and would only mislead policymakers.