Black children in Texas are better educated than black children in Iowa. White children, too, are better educated in Texas than in Iowa. So are Hispanic children. And Asians. But according to the rankings of states’ education systems put out by U.S. News and World Report, Texas ranks 33rd, while Iowa is in 8th place.
Obviously, something is very wrong with the rankings system used by U.S. News, the premier source for such data, and the handful of other interests that provide a similar service with similar results. So what happened with Texas and Iowa? It turns out that when the data was disaggregated based on race by researchers writing for Reason magazine, a drastically different picture emerged.
Compared to Texas, Iowa has far more white students, who tend to score higher in testing as a group, and far less minority students. But by giving each type of student equal weight, as Reason did for its analysis, Texas actually comes in 5th place, while Iowa is in 31st. In other words, the picture is almost reversed.
And that is just the start of the problems with the state ranking systems exposed by Reason and the Cato Institute, two libertarian organizations. Some of the other frauds may be even more serious in terms of skewing the results.
Consider, for example, that these “mainstream” rankings — U.S. News, Education Week, and WalletHub, among others — take into account how much money a state spends per student on its government education system. This assumes that spending money for its own sake is a plus.
As long as a state spends lots of money on a child’s so-called “education,” then, even if that education is worse than worthless, the state scores high marks! Indeed, states with students who perform worse on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) often score higher than better-performing states on the flawed rankings simply because they waste more tax money.
Another factor taken into account in these rankings is the number of students enrolled in pre-kindergarten. Why it should matter on a ranking whether more or less children are separated from their parents earlier on was not entirely clear, especially because legitimate studies show no benefit to starting the indoctrination — sorry, education — earlier rather than later.
“Taken together, these methodological problems should disqualify mainstream rankings from use in our national discourse,” wrote University of Texas at Dallas Economics Professor Stan Liebowitz and research fellow Matthew Kelly.
So, instead of just whining, the analysts came up with a solution. They developed a new ranking system that measures two key factors: quality and efficiency. Under the new, superior system, Florida shoots to the top despite spending far less per pupil than many other states that get much worse results but score higher on the flawed rankings. It also goes to number 3 in quality.
Meanwhile, Southern states go way up despite spending less, while whiter Northeastern states drop significantly despite spending like drunken sailors.
“Overall, our results demonstrate that existing state education rankings aren’t to be trusted,” wrote the authors. “When those scores are corrected, the conventional narrative is turned on its head. Students in fiscally conservative right-to-work states often perform better than their counterparts in high-tax, high-spending progressive utopias.”
Of course, these researchers are only scratching the surface of the monumental fraud that is the data on government education. But at least it is a start, and you have to start somewhere. Hopefully, a team of researchers with a university behind them can start taking apart the dumbed-down assessment metrics next.