According to Education Week’s annual Quality Counts report, Virginia rates first on the “chance-for-success” index.

The Quality Counts 2007 report, published by Education Week, found that Virginia scored higher than any other state on a new “chance-for-success” index that estimates the average child’s opportunities based on factors such as family income, parental education, employment trends, test scores, preschool participation and graduation rates.

Normally, I’d look at a study like this with a very skeptical eye (occasionally bordering on cynical).

But the particular approach taken by these researchers in looking at the quality of education – as part of many factors affecting student learning – actually seems valid.

Over the past decade, the annual Education Week report focused on performance in kindergarten through high school. This year, researchers took a broader view in an effort to show the multiple challenges states face in the drive to improve education at all levels, close achievement gaps and ensure that students will be competitive in a global workforce.

It’s about time someone realized that schools and teachers don’t work in a vacuum!

In fact, the only problem I would have with the report is that it lumps all the kids in the state into the same number. I’m sure the statistics for Virginia are heavily influenced by the DC suburbs here in the Northern part of the state. In addition to having a substantial number of students, this area is also far above the rest of the state in the factors being measured.

It would be even more revealing if the researchers would publish the same statistics broken down by different regions.

However, this report is a good start. Maybe instead of just tossing around test scores, we can discuss educational quality in context.

“We can’t just think about school as the silver bullet; it’s not the only thing happening in society,” said Christopher B. Swanson, director of the nonprofit Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, which developed the index. “A lot of what we’re looking at are things that relate to socioeconomic advantage or disadvantage. Unfortunately in many cases, the gap between rich and poor kids doesn’t narrow over the school years.”

education, quality counts, education week