- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 28, 2007

U.S. Chamber of Commerce leaders yesterday said states are doing a poor job educating America’s children for the future, citing a new report by the chamber that graded each state in areas from academic achievement and teacher quality to how wisely a state is spending its education dollars.

“This is an effort to do what is responsible for America’s youth,” said chamber President Thomas J. Donohue. “Our study has found that when it comes to education, the states aren’t making the grade.”

The study, conducted with help from the Center for American Progress (CAP) and the American Enterprise Institute, compiled and analyzed data from other research, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and a national survey of teachers. States received letter grades in nine categories but no overall rankings.

Arthur Rothkopf, senior vice president of the chamber, said the report identifies “leaders and laggards.”

Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Hampshire topped the list of 10 states that received A’s for academic achievement. New Mexico, Mississippi and the District took the three lowest slots among the 10 that received F’s. Grades were based on an analysis of the 2005 NAEP, a test given to a sampling of students nationwide.

John Podesta, president and chief executive officer of CAP, pointed out variations. He said Massachusetts, the top state for academic achievement, showed only 44 percent of fourth-graders proficient in reading and 49 percent proficient in math — numbers he called “unconscionable.”

The study also examined whether states presented accurate information or overstated student performance. Massachusetts, Maine, South Carolina, Wyoming and Missouri received A’s for honesty. Oklahoma and Tennessee received F’s, and 15 other states that were deemed to be sugarcoating performance got D’s.

Most states received A’s or B’s on teacher quality. Six received D’s, and Rhode Island got an F. The scores were based largely on whether states test teachers in both basic and subject-specific areas, and whether they recruit and test non-teaching professionals.

In a comparison of education spending with student performance, 10 states — including Utah, North Carolina and Washington — received A’s. The District and nine states — including Hawaii and New Mexico — failed.

The report was issued as the National Governors Association ended its winter meeting. Governors considered a federal framework to help states, institutions of higher learning and the private sector work together on innovations to improve proficiency in math and science, increase the number of science and engineering students, among other goals.

The chamber yesterday suggested higher starting salaries for teachers, removing ineffective educators and giving principals more control over budget and personnel. Chamber officials said the business community can give schools examples of management improvements, data collection and innovation.

“We want the business community at the table at every state,” Mr. Rothkopf said.

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