- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2001

D.C. public school students had the second-lowest scores on three national standardized tests — even though the city spent more per pupil than the national average, a latest national report card on education shows.
During the 1998-99 school year, the District spent $8,055 per student, the Report Card on American Education shows. That compares with the national average of $6,251.
Maryland, which spent $7,059 per student during that period, ranked 24th; Virginia — spending $6,044 per student — placed 27th, according to the report released last week by the American Legislative Exchange Councils National Task Force on Education. The council — the nations largest nonpartisan, individual membership association of state legislators — maintains increasing educational funding does not necessarily translate into higher achievement.
Iowa had the top-performing public elementary and secondary schools in the country, followed by Minnesota and Wisconsin. Mississippi ranked last.
Educators in Maryland and Virginia criticized the report yesterday, saying it captured only "a snapshot in time" instead of the bigger picture, which includes results of other tests taken by college-bound students in both states.
D.C. school officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The report based its rankings on scores from the 2000 American College Testing (ACT) Assessment, the SAT and the 1998 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the eighth-grade standardized reading test.
Officials in Virginia said the report did not reflect the states improvement rate in NAEP, the Stanford 9 or the Standards of Learning test scores taken in recent years.
Of the 26 states ranked ahead of Virginia in the report, 15 were states in which college-bound students predominately took the ACT. In Virginia, most college-bound students take the SAT.
"We dont dispute anything in the report," said Charles B. Pyle, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Education. "But the report doesnt speak at all to the progress weve made in Virginia over the years. It doesnt account for the increase in achievement weve had in the SOLs and Standards of Accreditation."
Maryland officials agreed with Virginias assessment of the report. "Our concern is that this report tries to make a sweeping statement like this without taking into account all other elements, " said Ron Peiffer, a spokesman for Maryland State Department of Education.
As in Virginia, most students take the SAT, or the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills, rather than the ACT, Mr. Peiffer said.
The Report Card on American Education conducted a state-by-state educational analysis over a 24-year period to grade all 50 states and the District using more than 100 measures of educational resources and achievement.
The report points out that while spending on public education nationwide has increased 22.8 percent — after adjusting for inflation — during the last two decades, SAT scores across the country have risen only 2.5 percent .
"It takes more than money to educate, " said Duane Parde, the councils executive director. "Now more than ever, our leaders must be open to new and innovative ways to improve the quality of education for all our children."
The conclusion that more spending doesnt guarantee a higher-quality education is in direct opposition to one drawn by Rand, a California-based think tank, in a report released in July. That study found that higher spending per pupil, lower class sizes, higher participation in public preschool and more teacher resources led to increased student achievement.
Despite the criticism of its education officials, Maryland students fared slightly better than their local counterparts. In 1998, Maryland students scored an average of 262 on the NAEP, 1 point higher than the national average of 261.
Last year, Maryland students scored an average of 1016 on their SATs, compared with the national average of 1019. They also scored an average of 20.7 on the ACT, compared with the national average of 21, the report shows.Virginia students scored an average of 266 on the NAEP in 1998. Last year, students scored an average of 1009 on the SATs and an average of 20.5 on the ACTs, the report shows.
In the District, students scored an average of 236 on the NAEP in 1998. Last year, students scored an average of 980 on their SATs and a 17.8 on the ACTs, the report shows.
* This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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