Where Are Public Schools Best?

The closer the better.  The furthest the worst.

Utah’s high school students earned the highest ACT scores in the nation in 2013 when compared with states where all students take the test, according to the Utah Office of Education .  Illinois and Colorado followed closely behind.  Several states do not have universal ACT participation.

Utah government requires the ongoing use of the ACT as an assessment of college and career readiness for all high school students. Utah’s average composite score was 20.7 with an increase of 1,700 students over 2012, representing all racial groups.  The average scores for black and Hispanic students were 16.9 and 17.6, respectively.  Pacific Islander students scored 16.8.  American Indian and Asian student scores were 16.1 and 20.7, respectively.

“What this data says to me is that when you compare Utah’s results with states that have comparable participation, Utahns are getting an extraordinary return on their investment in public education,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Martell Menlove reported.

The schools Americans know the most about–their local public schools–are perceived as better than public schools generally.  In a “2012 PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public Attitudes Toward the Public Schools,” nearly half of the respondents gave the schools in their communities either an A or B.  Among parents, 63 percent assigned A or B grades to their local schools, an increase of 6 percentage points from 10 years ago and 13 percentage points from 20 years ago.

But survey respondents grade U.S.public education generally lower.  Fewer than 20 percent assign grades of A or B, and nearly 50 percent give them C.  Proximity and direct experience result in favorable ratings; reliance on national media, and its reports and conclusions, made for the low marks. “There is a disconnect between their direct experience with their local public school and their impression of American public schools nationally,” observed Lisa Bartusek, National School Boards Association (NSBA) assistant executive director.

“Public policy is being framed on the perceptions that public schools are failing, and (local) schools are being impacted by these policies.  That’s where we have to connect the dots,” Bartusek stated.

Question:  Can the dots between local and U.S. public education be connected?  

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