Wyoming’s education system earned a C on a national report of K-12 achievement released last week, bogged down by its high school graduation rate and eighth-grade achievement.
The report, released by EdWeek, is a piece of the annual Quality Counts study, a broader assessment typically released in January that ranks each state’s education system on achievement, funding and chance for success. On this latest report, Wyoming earned a 73.1 out of 100, higher than the overall national score of 72.7. The Equality State’s score was the 18th best in the nation and the fourth best of the states west of Minnesota. Washington (74.8), Utah (73.9) and Colorado (73.8) all topped Wyoming.
Massachusetts — persistently ranked among the top education systems in the nation — ranked best in the nation with an 88. New Jersey’s 84.7 was the next closest. On the other end of the spectrum, Louisiana placed last with a 60.9, followed by New Mexico’s 61.5.
On the bright side, Wyoming’s fourth-grade proficiency in math and reading ranked highly: third for math and seventh for reading. The state also ranked in the top four for the achievement gap, measured by taking the difference between students who receive free and reduced lunches and those who don’t.
The numbers fell elsewhere. Wyoming was 18th in eighth-grade math proficiency and 17th for reading. Its 80 percent graduation rate was 13th worst, and its 12.1 percent of students who scored high on advanced placement tests was sixth worst.
Wyoming was consistently near the middle of the pack on the report’s assessment of progress in fourth- and eighth-grade proficiency, graduation rates and AP scores.
Wyoming’s performance on the broader Quality Counts report is typically better. In each of the past two years, the state ranked seventh overall. That score has been buoyed by its strong education funding system, even as school spending has been under a microscope in recent years as legislators look to cut budgets in the midst of an economic downturn.
Wyoming’s schools’ achievement — and whether it’s worth the $17,000 annually that Wyoming pays per pupil — has been a central part of those reduction talks, and the data has found a way to provide ammunition for both sides. On the one hand, the state’s NAEP scores — a national elementary and middle school-level test — are statistically similar to many other states.
The response from educators and lawmakers who opposed cuts is that while the Equality State’s students are close to their peers elsewhere, there are also very few states beating Wyoming.