July 30, 2018 | Adam McCann, Financial Writer
Securing a child’s academic success begins with choosing the right schools. But how can parents decide where to enroll their kids?
Because children develop and learn at different rates, the ideal answer to that question varies based on each student’s needs. Unfortunately, most parents can’t afford to place their children in exclusive, private or preparatory schools that give their students greater individual attention.
For the majority of U.S. families, public education is the only option. But the quality of public school systems varies widely from state to state and is often a question of funding.
Public elementary and secondary education money usually flows from three sources: the federal, state and local governments. According to the U.S. Department of Education, states contribute nearly as much as local governments, while the federal government supplies the smallest share.
Some researchers have found that more resources – or taxes paid by residents – typically result in better school–system performance.
Unlike other research that focuses primarily on academic outcomes or school finance, WalletHub’s analysis takes a more comprehensive approach. It accounts for performance, funding, safety, class size and instructor credentials.
To determine the top–performing school systems in America, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 25 key metrics.
|Overall Rank (1=Best)||STATE||TOTAL SCORE||'QUALITY' RANK||'SAFETY' RANK|
|49||District of Columbia||33.62||49||48|
Giving students a good education is crucial for the future of the country. That responsibility falls to parents, educators and leaders alike. To expand the discussion, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:
Assistant Professor, Merrimack College
I will say that from literature I have read, more than any factor within the school, teacher quality seems to be the strongest predictor of student achievement. Thus, recruiting and retaining strong teachers would ideally be the priority for every school.
This is, of course, is linked to budgets – what can schools afford to offer teachers? And what kind of institutional support can they provide teachers once they are hired?
Teacher retention continues to be a concern in K–12 education. Often, teachers report they feel overworked and underpaid. What undergirds this is the value placed on the teaching profession in our country as opposed to other countries who compensate their teachers significantly more, such as Finland. A change in perception is important if any changes in compensation will occur.
In my own institution, I see education majors changing majors because of such concerns about the future. Although I convey to students that money is not the “be all end all” of feeling fulfilled, students and their parents have practical concerns, particularly with the rising cost of college tuition.
Ultimately, there are multiple factors that contribute to a child’s success. We should consider how we are defining “success”. Within a school context, it tends to mean a high GPA and test scores, but emotional well being should be integrated as well.
Scales and his colleagues identified 40 developmental assets that significantly predict a child’s success and lower the likelihood of delinquency. These include family factors, such as family support, positive family communication, and parent involvement in school. It also includes school factors, such as a caring school climate and school boundaries.
It is oversimplified to pinpoint one particular factor. Each developmental asset has a cumulative impact on a child’s success and well–being.
Professor, Honorary Professor of International Studies, Program Coordinator for Undergraduate Elementary Education, Graduate Reading Faculty, Texas State University
I do not believe that variation in per pupil spending explains most of the variation in school quality. Teacher knowledge, expertise and ability play a bigger role in school quality than pupil spending.
While how much school districts receive per student is important and plays a huge role in resources, classroom teacher/pupil ratio per class size, teachers’ knowledge and ability to teach every student makes a bigger difference.
Teachers with graduate level degrees in subject areas such as reading, science, math, social studies have students who perform better on standardized tests then teachers without advanced degrees.
Teachers with advanced degrees also have higher rates of attrition and show more leadership potential over their career. These teacher leaders not only impact the instructional practices in classrooms and schools, they are highly knowledgeable and responsible for creating curriculum that meets the learning needs of all students.
State and local policymakers can invest in teachers’ education and professionalism without raising taxes. Instead of creating policies that allow anyone to teach research shows that this practice is highly ineffective and detrimental to students and school success.
They should encourage certified teachers to pursue advanced degrees, serve as committee leaders on state level policy and curriculum tasks, and lift up the status of teaching as a profession in the U.S. Once status is lifted and teachers are viewed as highly educated and essential to the growth of our nation on every level, then more qualified individuals will pursue teaching as a profession.
Do we need to pay teachers more? Yes. In Texas, we most definitely need to pay teachers more. But I think that could happen by reallocating funds and not raising taxes. Too often, principals and superintendents pay hundreds and thousands of dollars on expensive instructional programs – programs that are not research based nor have any record of effectiveness because they seek a “quick fix” to an educational problem.
These funds could be better used to invest in teachers’ education and professionalism. Teachers are extremely resourceful, innovative and know their students. I believe reallocating these funds will not only improve instruction and student learning, it will advance the belief that teachers are highly intelligent, professionals who can teach children and improve the school system.
The top 5 indicators of the best and worst school systems:
Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas – Department of Education Reform
The work/research of economist Eric Hanushek for years has told us that spending more money on education does not result in higher school achievement or quality. As Eric Hanushek noted, “…variations in per–pupil expenditure had little correlation with student outcomes”, Education Next, Spring 2016, Vol. 16, No. 2.
Family stability and support most important, as 1966 Coleman Report and 1965 Moynihan Report implied.
*PTO is Parent Teacher Organization, PTA is Parent Teacher Association.