Is Arizona a "Smart State"?

Posted on June 22, 2005
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Arizona fell three spots to 48 on this year's Morgan Quitno Press "Smartest State" ranking. That doesn't bode well for the Grand Canyon state, or so it would seem.

In determining which state is the "smartest," the ranking relies on factors that have little to do with how well a state is educating students. The authors fail to distinguish between what goes into the system and what comes out.

Input factors such as per-pupil funding, teacher salaries, and class size have little to do with student achievement. Output factors such as standardized test scores, which actually measure student achievement, are much more meaningful.

However, of the 21 factors employed, only eight are meaningful measures of achievement, and two are confounding mirrors of each other, which may skew the results. Even using graduation rates can be problematic in a comparative study of this kind because it is difficult to account for differences in graduation requirements and relative difficulty of curricula.

This ranking, while great for garnering press, provides little useful information on education quality. As rankings go, the "Smartest State" ranking definitely has room for improvement.

Key Links:
-2004-2005 Smartest State Award
- The Economic Journal: "The Failure of Input-based Schooling Policies"
-National Bureau for Economic Research: The Market for Teacher Quality
-American Legislative Exchange Council: Report Card on American Education

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