A day after a study said Georgia students fare worse than thought on college entrance exams, a new study calls Georgia one of the top education states in the nation.
The new report, released Thursday by the trade newspaper Education Week, puts Georgia in the top 12 after grading all 50 states in four major education categories. States are not ranked, but the 12 were cited for earning the highest marks.
South Carolina "falls a little below the midline," said Ronald Wolk, publisher of Education Week, whose readership is primarily principals, teachers and counselors.
"Riddled with excellence, but rife with mediocrity," is how Mr. Wolk describes schools nationwide. Policies and reforms now in place "will take a generation to work," said Robert Sexton, director of a Kentucky-based academic excellence committee.
Georgia earns an "A" for high standards, a "B-" for quality of teaching, a "B" average for how it uses its resources and a "C" for well-organized schools. South Carolina earns a "B" for standards, but a "D+" for well-organized schools, a "C" for teaching quality and a "C" average for resources.
The HOPE scholarship, Quality Basic Education Act, Gov. Zell Miller's track record and other policies put Georgia ahead of other states, the report said.
"We looked at what the states are doing.°.°.°and in that sense, Georgia did very well," Mr. Wolk said in a conference call with reporters. "So that has not translated yet in a direct way into the kind of student achievement you want to see. But Georgia has the policies in place."
Test scores traditionally used to judge school performance - where Georgia typically ranks at or near the bottom - were not included in the report. A study released Wednesday by a North Carolina group, for example, found even Georgia's top students perform far below top students in other states on the Scholastic Assessment Test.
"Georgia doesn't spring to mind as a pioneer in school reform, but the Peach State has experimented over the past decade with a number of innovative ideas and programs for its schools," the study's authors wrote.
Education Week writers cite South Carolina's high poverty levels as one factor for poor education performance, noting that the state's per capita income average in 1995 was $18,788, which is $4,000 less than the national average.
"South Carolina has a long way to go before it's going to move up in the upper ranks of the states," Mr. Wolk said.
Just four states - Maine, Montana, Oklahoma, Vermont - earned higher than a "C" or "D" for having effective and organized schools, which includes class sizes as a main factor. Georgia is one of eight states earning higher than a "C" in quality of teaching.
None of the 50 states should be proud of its students' results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the one standardized test included in the study, the authors said. Just 26 percent of Georgia's fourth graders and 20 percent of South Carolina's fourth graders read proficiently, for example.
"Clearly there's a long way to go," Mr. Wolk said. The test scores are cited in percentages, not grades. "If we'd given them a letter grade, every state in the union would've gotten an `F.'°"
The newspaper's report was being criticized by some Detroit officials Thursday for using 1992 data to examine funding levels. Mr. Wolk said the criticism was valid, but it illustrates the inadequacy of available educational data.
"If the economy had to rely on the kind of information we have in education, which is outdated and not accountable, we probably would have a Third World nation," Mr. Wolk said.
The Pew Charitable Trusts, a philanthropy organization in Philadelphia, helped Education Week with the study.
STATES EARNING HIGHEST GRADES:
Source: Education Week report, Quality Counts
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