The performance gap between poor and middle-income students in Washington has grown more than in any other state.
During the past 12 years, the gap in achievement between poor students and others in Washington has widened more than in any other state, according to an analysis released Thursday.
When interpreting student performance, much depends on whether you’re a glass-half-empty sort of person or more of a Pollyanna, and Washington ranks above the national average in many areas, including overall scores, household income and the number of adults with a college degree.
But between 2003 and 2015, low-income fourth- and eighth-graders lagged significantly on state tests, while nationally those gaps have narrowed. Only Washington, D.C., with a stunning 24-point difference between its poor and middle-income kids, showed greater disparities.
The data is part of a yearly report by Education Week, a national newsmagazine, and provides a lens through which to evaluate results of the No Child Left Behind Act, the national law aimed at improving school accountability, that was tossed late last year amid criticism that it emphasized testing over instruction.
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That law went into effect in 2002, and since then overall scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, have improved, but only slightly.
For high school seniors, performance has been flat since 2009. And after 10 years of gradual improvement for elementary and middle-school kids, average scores in math and reading have been on the decline since 2013.
Christopher Swanson, vice president of Editorial Projects in Education, which publishes Education Week, said states are now freer to chart their course, which opens the door for innovation, but also uncertainty.
“Called to Account: New Directions in School Accountability” compares performance in three broad categories: K-12 student scores, school funding and life outcomes.
As has been true for the past nine years, Massachusetts ranked No. 1 overall in the study and received an “A” grade. Washington, with a comparable population, rated a “C”, with lower graduation rates and far fewer young adults entering college (52 vs. 70 percent).
It’s not necessarily about money. Though Washington faces court-ordered increases in education spending after years of bare-bones funding, Massachusetts ranks 23rd nationally in the portion of tax dollars it earmarks for schools, right in the middle of the pack. Washington ranks 41st.