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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

January 9, 2014 at 5:00 AM

If school spending here matched Massachusetts, would we top nation?

Mark Weber / Op Art

Mark Weber / Op Art

In the latest national ranking of state education systems, Washington state held its usual, somewhat confounding position.

Washington did well on a number of academic measures in the Education Week analysis, which the national newsmagazine publishes each year.

Washington, for example, ranks 7th in the percent of eighth-graders who score “proficient” in math, and 7th in the percent scoring “advanced,” on the national test known as the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress).

It also sits among the top dozen states in fourth-grade reading and math as well.

But in Washington, low-income students lag further behind their better-off counterparts than in other parts of the country. The gap in fourth-grade reading performance on the NAEP, for example, earned Washington a ranking of 34. And that gap has widened over the past decade.

Washington also ranked low in how well it funds its public schools — coming in 41st both in per-pupil spending (adjusted for regional cost differences) and in how much of its available taxable resources are spent on education.

The national average for per-pupil spending, in Education Week’s analysis, was $11,864 per year. Washington’s was $9,262.  Massachusetts, which earned the highest grades across the board, spends $13,127.

And many more students in Massachusetts are educated in districts where per-pupil spending is at least the national average. In fact, nearly all Massachusetts students — 99.8 percent — fit into that category. In this state, just 29 percent do.

Some say such rankings — Washington’s pattern is similar in many of them — show that this state can achieve above-average results with below-average resources.

But it does make one wonder: What could Washington do with above-average resources?

If it spent as much as Massachusetts, could it lead the nation on the NAEP? Could it narrow its achievement gaps?

Education Week’s annual assessment of public education includes a lot of other data, too. Find it here.

Comments | More in News | Topics: Education Week, National Assessment of Educational Progress, school finance

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