Blue State Schools: The Shame of a Nation
Published on: June 20, 2011
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  • Mogden

    Undoubtedly the poor performance will be met with cries for more money “for the children”.

  • Luke Lea

    I’ll out on a limb and say something is off in these results. Not sure what — most likely in the measure — but will report back. 🙂

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    Anti-Trust the Labor Gangs, why should they get unjust monopoly powers? What makes them so special? Aren’t we all workers?

  • Engineer

    It might prove interesting to look at family structure in those high performing districts and see if there are lot of intact two parent families or even genuine extended families that are involved in the kid’s education. After all, real education doesn’t stop when the kids leave the classroom. To be sure single parents and non-traditional parents often try their best, but . . .

  • Luke Lea

    Here is a critique of the Newsweek rankings I found on the web from a couple of years back by a guy named Patrick Mattimore. It would appear that a lot of these “top” schools are gaming Newsweek’s methodology much as many colleges do with the rankings in U.S. News and World Report.

    “The Newsweek rankings have no quality control. Schools are ranked, not according to how students perform on the tests, but merely by how many tests the students take. Corbett High School in Oregon and Classen School of Advanced Studies in Oklahoma City are ranked #8 and #14 respectively out of the more than 27,000 public high schools. Both are exclusively AP schools and the indexes for graduating seniors at those two schools are over 9 and 7 respectively. Despite that, less than one third of the graduating seniors at either school passed a single AP exam.

    With an index over 16, the top-rated school in the country was Talented and Gifted High School in Dallas. Yet, even with students taking more AP exams than anywhere else in the country, less than two-thirds of graduating seniors from Talented and Gifted high passed even one exam. To understand how mediocre that is, consider that in some states, such as Connecticut, over 70% of all the AP exams taken received passing scores last year.

    There are other anomalies in the rankings. Northcoast Preparatory and Performing Arts High School was rated the 30th best high school in the nation and the third best public high school in California. Yet, there are only 18 graduating seniors. That makes Northcoast a behemoth however, compared to Eastern Sierra Academy, also in California, which had 7 graduating seniors out of a total school population of 25, but was nevertheless supposedly one of the top 200 schools in America. Can schools with total graduating classes smaller than the size of an average class in most high schools really be considered better than more than 99% of all public high schools?

    As judged by other criteria, the Newsweek rankings are a bust as well. Three of the top fifty national schools from Florida, Eastside High #20, (Gainesville), Hillsborough High #46 (Tampa), and Rickards High #48 (Tallahassee) all failed to make adequate yearly progress last year according to federal standards. The schools did not perform particularly well on state standards either as none of them were denominated blue ribbon schools. At Eastside, 48% of students did not meet the state reading standard. At Hillsborough that figure was 51% and at Rickards 58%. A bare majority (56%) met the state science standard at Hillsborough whereas a majority of students at Eastside (54%) failed to meet that same standard. Over two-thirds of Rickards students (69%) could not meet the Florida science standard and the school was rated only a “C” by the State Board of Education.

    Newsweek continues to spit out these quality less measures of supposed excellence. Unfortunately, schools looking for a short cut to academic prowess have jumped on the AP freight train, throwing kids into classes for which they are inadequately prepared and adding more AP classes in hopes of boosting their Newsweek ranking. In the last twenty years, the failure rate on AP exams has grown by 10%. Fortunately, even the College Board, which administers the AP program has recognized the AP door has swung too wide open. This year the College Board recommended that AP be limited to all “willing and academically prepared students.” It would be nice if Newsweek did some listening for a change.”

  • Luke Lea

    On a more positive note, U.S. public schools do quite well in international testing when you compare apples to apples. That is Asians Americans score higher than Asians in Asia, European Americans score higher than Europeans in Europe, and Mexican Americans score higher than Mexicans in Mexico. Surely that counts for something.

  • David R.

    Don’t wish to spoil the party…but you may note e.g. that almost none of the metro-Boston public high schools participated in the survey including Dover, Brookline, Newton North, Newton South, Weston, Wellesley, Concord-Carlisle, Lexington, Lincoln-Sudbury, Natick, or Belmont. These are top performing school systems that routinely send large numbers of grads to the most competitive colleges and universities in America. This does not necessarily invalidate your conclusion, but we need to recognize that Newsweek’s data set is incomplete.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      Agreed — the studies are neither scientific nor complete. It’s still interesting to see that so many Southern schools in particular are eager to become excellent and to make their excellence known. Excellence in education is a difficult thing to define much less to measure — all these studies should be taken with a healthy dose of salt.

  • Luke Lea

    It gets worse: “Here’s why this feature compromises Newsweek’s ethics. Newsweek’s parent company, the Washington Post, also owns Kaplan, the test prep powerhouse. It’s also hardly necessary to explain that encouraging more students to take AP tests directly correlates with increasing Kaplan’s business.

    Standard journalistic ethics call for avoiding the appearance of conflict of interest. The Newsweek high school rankings emblazon the appearance of conflict of interest across the heavens.

    An increasing chorus of dissenters complains each year about this feature – including some of the “winners.” In May 2008, the superintendents of 38 high-performing school districts signed a letter to Newsweek protesting the feature and requesting that their districts be excluded (a toothless request, but a meaningful gesture). This year, a top education reporter in Dallas – the location of two of the top-ranked schools – questioned the rankings’ credibility.

    Continue reading on Newsweek needs to drop its invalid and corrupt high school rankings – San Francisco Education |

  • Joshua Kilroy

    What a disappointing essay, I expect better from WRM. I took a quick look around the NAEP website – generally considered the gold standard of educational testing – and MA is consistently at the top, as is CT and NH. NJ, WA, and OR also come out quite well. Here is the 8th grade reading results as an example,

  • John Barker

    For an idea of how schools could better serve the student with average or less academic ability or interest, google “Pathways to Prosperity,” a study by Harvard Education college promoting the idea of business/school partnership to develop meaningful vocational training. There are differences in both degree and kind in intellectual ability, making a purely academic program a waste of time for many students,who would thrive in a more concrete and applied educational setting.

  • WigWag

    This post by Professor Mead doesn’t even rise to the level of farce. The most charitable explanation I can think of is that Professor Mead is doing his best to imitate the modern major general from the Pirates of Penzance. Does the Professor know what is meant by “mamelon” and “ravelin?” Can he tell at sight a Mauser Rife from a Javelin? If not, perhaps he can consult Tina Brown.

    Does Professor Mead really expect to be taken seriously when the only data he cites to prove his point has been compiled, by of all people, the founder of the Daily Beast? What’s next, an expose on American foreign policy based on statistics compiled by Keith Olbermann? An analysis of American economic policy thoughtfully formulated by Jerry Seinfeld? An insightful discussion of American agricultural trends as seen through the eyes of Lady Gaga?

    If Mead has aspirations of being taken seriously by serious people, let him present the data on literacy, number of children reading at grade level, performance on math, history and civics assessment tests, SAT scores, etc for the Red and Blue States as a whole. Texas may or may not have a small number of high schools that are amongst the best in the United States, but they also come in 45 out of 50 in SAT scores. Citing Newsweek’s assessment of what represents the best high schools in America tells us absolutely nothing about the comparative quality of public education offered by Red and Blue States and the Professor knows it. By using this criteria to generalize about educational quality offered by public schools, Mead is doing nothing more than treating his readers like Rubes; unfortunately it’s something he’s made a habit of lately.

    To prove the inanity of his methodology, each year U.S. News and World Report prepares a list of the best colleges and universities in the United States. For 2010 here they are in rank order: (1)Harvard, (2)Princeton, (3)Yale, (4)Columbia, (5)Stanford, (6)University of Pennsylvania, (7)California Institute of Technology, (8)Massachusetts Institute of Technology, (9)Dartmouth, (10)Duke. Only one university from a Red State appears on the list and it appears at the bottom; should we conclude from this that Red States are incapable of competing with Blue States when it comes to higher education? Should we conclude on the basis of the findings of U.S. News that there is something inferior about the Red State model when it comes to educating college students? That’s precisely what we would conclude if instead of being nonsensical, Mead’s methodology had any merit.

    Perhaps Mead would argue that the universities on the list that I mentioned were private institutions and thus weren’t indicative of the role played by government in higher education. But interestingly enough, U.S. News and World Report also prepares a ranking of public colleges and universities akin to what the ”brilliant” Ms. Brown did with public high schools. Here’s the 2010 list in rank order: (1)UC Berkeley, (2)UCLA, (3)University of Virginia, (4)University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, (5)University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. (6)College of William and Mary, (7)Georgia Institute of Technology, (8)University of California-San Diego, (9)University of California-Davis, (10)University of California-Santa Barbara.

    Using Mead’s definition of a red state (a state that voted for Bush instead of Kerry) only 40 percent of the greatest public universities in the United States can be found in the Red States.

    But anyone wanting to play Mead’s silly game can stretch his ridiculous analogy still further. U.S. News also publishes a list of the best hospitals in the United States. For 2010 here they are: (1)Johns Hopkins Hospital, (2)Mayo Clinic, (3)Massachusetts General Hospital, (4)Cleveland Clinic, (5)UCLA Medical Center, (6)Columbia Presbyterian Hospital of NY, (7)University of California-San Francisco Medical Center, (8)Barnes Hospital-St. Louis, (9)Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, (10)Brigham and Women’s Hospital-Boston.

    As anyone can plainly see, only one of the ten best hospitals in the United States is located in a red state (Barnes Hospital). Should we conclude from this that when it comes to health care, the Blue State model is so far superior to the Red State model that red state citizens suffer from abysmal medical care? That’s exactly the conclusion you would need to reach if the methodology Mead cites made any sense. And while Mead excoriates the Blue State model for what it has done to education in the State of Massachusetts, perhaps he can explain to us how that same Blue State model produced 20 percent of the best hospitals in the United States when Massachusetts has only two percent of the nation’s population.

    Do serious people cite a “ten best” list from Tina Brown and the Daily Beast/Newsweek when they want to make an intellectual contribution? Does this mean that Professor Mead will be mining David Letterman’s nightly “Top Ten” list for his future posts?

    Come on Professor Mead; you can do better than this. If one of your students at Bard submitted a paper as vacuous as this post, you know perfectly well it would deserve little better than an “F.”

  • Whit

    What’s scary is that these blue staters are coming in more and more #s to red states, supposedly to escape oppressive local and state governments and the accompanying tax burden. They then turn around and almost immediately begin to complain about supposed lack of services. The retired among them began to agitate city councils and county boards… One thing is for sure… The South hasn’t seen this many Yankees since Grant took Richmond.

  • WigWag

    “It gets worse: “Here’s why this feature compromises Newsweek’s ethics. Newsweek’s parent company, the Washington Post, also owns Kaplan…” (Luke Lea)

    Luke, FYI, the Washington Post Company no longer owns Newsweek. The magazine was sold in 2010 to Sidney Harmon of Harmon and Kardon fame (stereo speakers). As it happens, Harmon (who was married to former California congresswoman Jane Harmon) died two months ago at the age of 92. Prior to his death he merged Newsweek with the Daily Beast which was owned primarily by Barry Diller.

    The Washington Post still owns Kaplan, in fact, it is far and away their most profitable subsidiary; much more profitable than their newspapers and broadcast television stations. But since the sale, Kaplan and Newsweelk/Daily Beast no longer share a corporate parent.

  • Robert Morris

    I am a huge fan of this blog, and a fervent convert to your critique of the blue social model. It gibes with a lot of what I know, my experience working on the fringes of Washington, DC education, and my knowledge of the profound obstacles facing the state of New York.

    That said, this post does a disservice to the model you’ve been developing. Its flimsiness makes it easy for the progressives I think you want to reach, or at least argue with, to discount.

    Even if the study was flawless, it is worthless for the kinds of issues that we should be concerned with. Any student of education knows that public education in affluent suburbs is generally pretty fantastic. It is not surprising that red states, with fresher affluence, and less Teacher Union control, would be able to put together some incredible schools in affluent suburbs.

    As you well know, the real education question is what happens in the districts where parents don’t take the time to show up to PTA meetings, and can’t afford to support their child’s every need. This study does not speak to that at all, and failed to convince even my hyper-libertarian self. India and Sub-Saharan Africa are no doubt peppered with excellent academies for the children of the affluent. It does not convince anyone to adopt their social model.

    I enjoy confronting the bien pensant progressives I am surrounded with here in DC with your ideas. Your posts are usually filled with ideas that leave the guardians of conventional wisdom in sputtering wrecks. This post provides no ammunition at all.

  • Luke Lea

    I stand corrected, Wig Wag. Thanks.

  • Luke Lea

    A critic writing for the San Francisco Chronicle likened it this way: “Imagine going to a track meet in which medals are awarded according to how many competitors you put in the 100-meter dash or how high you can set the bar in the pole vault. Winners in the long jump are determined not by how far individuals soar but by how many attempts they make.”

    An even more important question, to me at least, concerns the half of the population that is below average in intelligence? Should they aspire to college? What kind of education will best prepare them to live productive and fulfilling lives? A high school drop out in one of John Updike’s novels, Roger’s Version, is asked why he isn’t in school? His reply: “They don’t teach you none of the shit you need to know.” We need to remove the stigma of vocational education and teach real world skills like they do in Germany. One way to do that would be to require that all students take a few such courses, including the college bound. Learn how to cook, learn what manual labor is, how to build a house, lay a brick wall, weld two pieces of metal together, or just use a screwdriver. You’d be surprised at the number who can’t and the money they waste hiring others to make the simplest household repairs. The dignity of physical labor, and the joy of it, needs to be reestablished in this country.

  • Larry, San Francisco

    I was looking at the NCES results for 2009 for 4th graders (this is the result that came up first).

    It is interesting to compare California average scores by race/ethnicity to Texas. This is probably a less biased view of the difference.
    Cal Tex
    White 227 232
    Black 200 213
    Hispanic 196 210
    Asian 234 242

    From what I could find the states spend about the same per pupil (controlling for cost of living differences). It is interesting that Texas is way better especially for Blacks and Hispanics.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      The Newsweek and Washington Post lists are anecdotal rather than systemic. They are about individual schools rather than the performance of whole systems or states — and, as some comments point out, they have their flaws. The point of the post is that some red states are doing surprisingly well at creating good individual schools. You are getting at the more serious issues — that the relationship between per pupil expenditure and student accomplishment suggests that at least some states are spending money ineffectively while others do more with less. But even this point has to be made with caution; as I point out in the post, education is almost impossible to measure — and systems that teach to tests may get higher scores but its questionable what the kids have actually learned.

  • Trent Telenko


    The difference between Blue State schools and Red state schools is definately a reflection of local political culture.

    For instance, only Florida and Texas evaluate productivity of schools and districts as a matter of policy. Neither has strong state teacher’s unions.


    This difference is reflected best between Texas and California public schools, as local California political culture has been enabling the kudzu like growth of parasitic school administration bureaucracy for decades.

    And California is simply the most extreme of the blue states, as Texas is of the Red states.

    The best explanation I have seen of this phenomina I found here:

    The school administrator problem is due chiefly to the slow accretion, over many years, of feel-good legislation (almost always by Democrats in California) which assigns a small task to public schools to satisfy one of the legislators’ many special interest constituencies. The tasks almost always involve reporting of something or other unrelated to instruction, but which pleases the special interest group in question. Often training of some sort is involved.

    Few of these feel-good tasks, individually, involve more than a trivial expense but, in vast numbers over a 40-year period, their totality requires armies of administrators beavering away on utter crap which eats budgets and significantly detracts from the time and energy teachers can spend on instruction.

    The chief advantage of public charter schools in California is that they are exempt from many of these useless administrative reporting requirement, can spend a greater proportion of their budgets on teaching, and their teachers don’t have to comply with so many useless reporting requirements.

    Given that these feel-good tasks generally, if not almost always, create mandatory reporting duties, cuts in public K-12 education budgets in turn whack away at the few discretionary items, of which first in line is always actual instruction of students.

    The limited amount of time the Texas legislature meets, compared to California’s legislature, every two years has hugely positive consiquences as far as schooling is concerned.

    There is very little time for such minor public school administration special interest log rolling as the bigger special interests fight to affect the top line spending of the Texas state budget.

    The best way to assess a Blue States ability to reform Public Education is to watch how it treats charter schools and home schooling.

    California is hostile to both, while Texas doesn’t have many charter schools (it doesn’t need them outside DISD and HISD) and Texas home schooler parents are forming networks to field sports leagues with football teams.

  • Anthony

    “Our educational difficulties have arisen neither from incompetence nor from ill will but from adherence to ideas that have proven practically inadequate and scientifically incorrect.”

    Most formal education in the United States is of the once-over-lightly, hit-and-run, bargain-counter, mass-cult variety in that even many college graduates have lingering difficulties about spelling, writing plain prose, identifying crucial historical figures, events, etc. Consequently, a rethinking of education delivery K-12 is not only necessary but also sufficient given both economic and cultural forces impacting 21st century America (Blue and Red).

  • Sweet T

    This was a disappointing post. When you start with a point you want to prove, [Red States good, Blue states bad!] then reach for any evidence you can get to without having to haul yourself off the couch this is what happens. The commenters above have already pointed out all the methodology problems with the survey, so I’ll let that be. What I see in this data, is that Texas and Florida, in addition to producing poor average results for their public school students, also seem to have an inequality problem. The fact that some lily-white rich suburb of Houston or Dallas has a great public school should surprise no one. One of the commenters above mentioned the great schools in the Boston suburbs… one of the major drags on their performance in aggregate is the METCO program, where the state busses disadvantaged kids from Boston slums to the good high schools. This doesn’t show up as a positive in any Newsweek [dumb] metics, but it is arguable an admirable thing the state is trying to do. I like not paying taxes as much as the next guy, but arguing that Blue states are doing a poorer job of providing public ed is a stretch, and it seems like no one here is buying it.

  • Robert Arvanitis

    Worth checking, on adjusting for composition of population:

  • Yahzooman

    Please check out this fascinating 12 minute video.

    The narrator debunks our infatuation with assembly-line education.

    Instead, schools should be based on how we learn.

  • Teachers unions are the death of education. Perhaps parents need to wake up and do something about this malignant special interest. If not the Dexter solution, then at least put their kids somewhere they can receive an education, rather than a dumbed-down indoctrination.

  • almiller

    Something’s fishy about the list. While I do agree that red state schools are better on average, none of the premier high schools in Houston showed up on the last. No Bellaire, Memorial, Clements or Klein–just cream skimmers and stat managing schools.

  • Sox Fan

    Something is wrong with this. As a red state person in a blue state (Massachusetts) I know our school systems are better then down south. Anecdotally everyone I know down south – TX GA MD sends their children to private schools because the quality of the public schools is so poor. In Massachusetts very few people do. Of course this may just be the middle class school.

  • MaxMBJ

    I taught 33 years in an Indiana public high school then one year (so far) at a university overseas (Lithuania). The high school I taught at was on the outskirts of a small but growing city and in my 33 years there evolved from a mostly rural school to semi-urban. The school district was deeply conservative (in school surveys before each election Repubs would generally garner 90% of the vote). It was also very Christian. No public meeting would go without mention of God and Christ. A large percentage of our students up to grade 8 were Amish.

    Over the years, as the city nearby grew, our student population became less homogenous. We saw more kids from broken homes, more students on free lunches (a major metric used to assess the socio-economic profile of a public school), more mixed ethnicity.

    Recently, a single family with a child in one of our elementary schools objected to a pull-out Bible program and the board, wisely, dropped the program realizing it was indefensible, a decision that did not sit well with many in the community.

    In my years there watching the school change in character, I came to draw a striking conclusion: students from religious homes achieved at a much higher rate than those from non-religious homes. My advanced English classes for seniors were populated almost entirely with kids from religious homes. One year a group of four popular, athletic senior guys began singing a hymn, semi-ironically, in class after something I said reminded them of it. Jokingly, I joined in. This began a semester long rite of them entering the room singing a hymn.

    The survey Newsweek did does not quantify religiousity but it should. There is something about going to church or synagogue (or probably mosque … I’ve no experience with that) which helps shape the soul and mind (if they’re not synonymous) of a person. The value of the written word is developed. The ability to sit and listen is also. Even more important, to me anyway, is a development of curiousity for the higher plane, for the spiritual, the mystical, the deeper things.

    Sorry for the long post. Just wanted to throw this factor into the mix.

  • Tom Kinney

    Good article, good comments.

    There’s another component to blue vs. red education that has nothing to do with states, which are often compromised by budgets and culture and therefore difficult to assess in some areas such as this.

    There is a well-researched reading (with other course applications, particularly math and science) program called Direct Instruction. It’s originator, Zig Engelmann worked on some of the early studies of the Great Society commission, including Head Start, a program that has been a proven failure over and again, but is continually revived by blues, regardless of repeated failures.

    Engelmann founded his DI (there’s also a di, small caps, which is an elaboration on his ideas sans Zig) program after working with kids with severe disabilities and inner city kids in the Chicago area. Long story short, it is rigorous systematic instruction ordered in a rigidly sequenced series of lessons that is heavily dependent on repetition.

    In test after test, DI proves itself the single best such approach to remedial reading. Yet orgs like AERA (American Educational Research Assn, the biggest ed research council), run by the same types as populate teachers’ unions, prefer the proven failure of Whole Language, which has recently mutated (much like climate change to climate chaos as its reputation sinks ever further, etc.) to Blended Literacy, which is a sad compromise between WL and DI. This move was made because while DI has consistently proven itself, WL is preferred by many, despite its consistently poor showing in research.

    Madison, Wisconsin, for example, uses whole language and blended language and rarely uses Direct Instruction although the UW has one of its most dedicated adherents, Dr. Sara Tarver. And we all know how enlightened Madison is supposed to be. If you have a lot of noisy and disruptive protests, you must be enlightened, right?

    This reverse logic is seen all over the country, where college teacher training courses prefer the hapless theories of postmodernism to research-based curricula. Inexplicable? Not really. All these loosey goosey educational “innovations” are remnants of the late 60s ravaging of such time-honored practices as the use of repetition and memorization, deemed educationally evil by young hippie teachers who are now old hippie teachers but still largely running the show in our public schools.

    Many good teachers and people among that group, but on balance, and especially in recent years, they have run aground and have become an obstacle to meaningful progress.

    In fact, according to Engelmann and other supporters of DI, this research-based program continues to be seen as the scourge of “progressive” educators while they peddle their scientifically disproven theories at will.

  • CS

    Wait. Both rankings rely on number of AP, etc, tests given, not AP or other (SAT, etc.) scores? Did I misunderstand? Could schools fail to avail themselves of such an obvious means to game rankings? We could debate the validity of score-based rankings, but participation-based rankings are just another version of the much-mocked bluestate “winner for competing” principle.

  • John Selig

    Two of the Texas public schools, Highland Park H.S. and Westwood H.S. near Austin, are located in very rich neighborhoods. You won’t find many “crackers” or “hillbillies” there, although maybe there are a few in the hinterlands of Texas (I lived in Texas for 20 years).

  • iharry

    Wow. Dr. Mead’s pop analysis really has no bottom, does it? I, among many, thought his posts from months ago were intellectually creative, honest and insightful. Yet with each passing month, the veneer of poltical independence and depth of analysis get thinner and thinner.

    Others have noted the shallowness of the analysys, so I won’t get into that here, although Education Week (a non profit funded by the likes of Metlife, Exxon and Bill Gates) just listed the top ten states with the best public schools, and 4 of the top 5 states were in the Northeast. But this has been typical fare for the professor lately.

    A very smart man willing to put out selective information to further what is becoming an increasingly obvious political agenda is just a propagandist, plain and simple. We are all thirsting for honest insight in this digital age where everyone is only offering water poisoned by their own agenda, and it is bitterly dissapointing to see Dr. Mead, so glibly it seems, going down that road as well.

  • Voyager

    Got cross-referenced this from Instapundit, with a link-back to an earlier Iowahawk column on the subject here:

    The upshot is that, while Texas does end up with a lower overall ranking in SAT averages and graduation rates, when you break it out by ethnic blocs, all of the respective ethic blocs do significantly better than the national average.

    To return to the issues raised by, I belie either Luke Lea, or WigWag, about how schools perform when there is no parent participation, as I recall they don’t. If I recall correctly, the level of parent participation is one of the biggest single factors in student success.

    You really can’t delegate raising your kids to a stranger. You can try, but you will fail.

  • Suzanne

    The Newsweek list doesn’t include all schools in the nation. Number one they didn’t send their surveys out in a timely manner, and it isn’t clear how many schools, and where they are located, that they sent the surveys to.

    Many schools are missing, for example in VA (a right to work state) TJ is not included; many have said this school is the best in the nation.

    The school from Dallas that made the number one on this list had an average SAT score of 1784; I wonder about that qualifying as a number one school.

    Basically, without having every school represented, conclusions can’t be made about the quality of the schools, and comparisons like the one you drew aren’t valid.

  • I’ve now homeschooled for five years, since private school became unaffordable for us, like other families during this ‘great recession.’

    My children consistently score in the top 10th percentile on the Stanford Achievement Tests each year. I don’t in any way teach to a test.

    I know my shortcomings at home. We probably average two to three hours a day at most of schoolwork. We also have weekly memory work drilling at Classical Conversations, which has been exceedingly helpful. I am supportive of the old-time methods of memorizing and recitation in elementary school. It’s foolish to burden kids with textbooks, which go in one ear and out the other. Just have them memorize the basics when they’re young, so that they will always remember it. In the middle grades, make sure they study logic.

    A little goes a long way if you don’t waste your kids’ life in lunch lines and daily transportation to and from school.

  • Ray Manning

    Texas, with about 8% of the population, comprised only 7% of the top 500. I’d love for it to have been better (I’m from Texas) that that’s the way it is.

    My point is that there’s more to it than the numbers presented.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      You are correct. The lists are not scientific or fully representative — they should be taken as (very) rough indicators.

  • WigWag

    Understandably, Professor Mead wants a mulligan or at the very least, he would like to revise and extend his remarks. Who could blame him? He suggests that we have misunderstood the point of his post; specifically he says,

    “The point of the post is that some red states are doing surprisingly well at creating good individual schools.”

    But is that really the point of his post? He entitles his essay, “Blue State Schools: The Shame of a Nation.” The title he selected suggests a far more expansive moral to his story than he now wishes us to believe he intended.

    The first sentence to his essay also makes his claim that that he merely meant to suggest that “some” red states are producing good individual schools look silly. After all, he opens his piece with,

    “When it comes to excellence in education, red states rule — at least according to a panel of experts assembled by Tina Brown’s Newsweek.”

    We all understand that Mead is trying to make some interesting points about the Blue State model and what he sees as its demise; that’s fine. But essays like this don’t strengthen his argument; they just make his argument look ridiculous. We expect more from Professor Mead than merely throwing everything he can against the wall in the hope that something will stick.

    Being that Professor Mead believes that surveys from popular magazines provide good source material for his broader sociological points, I wonder whether he’s taken a look at last year’s Bon Appétit magazine and its list of the top ten new restaurants in the United States. If he hasn’t, he should. After all, Bon Appétit is published by Conde Nast, a former long time employer of Tina Brown.

    Here’s Bon Appetite’s list of the top ten new restaurants in the United States for 2010: (1)Laurelhurst Market, Portland OR; (2)Miller Union, Atlanta, GAl (3)Menton, Boston, MA; (4)Marea, New York, NY; (5)Anchovies & Olives, Seattle, WA; (6)Hatfield’s, Los Angeles, CA; (7)Ellerbie Fine Foods, Fort Worth, TX (8)Bar La Grassa, Minneapolis, MN; (9)Frances, San Francisco, CA; (10)The Purple Pig, Chicago, IL.

    As I am sure he will quickly note, only two restaurants in the Bon Appétit survey are in red states.

    Had he based his post on the Bon Appétit survey instead of the Daily Beast/Newsweek survey one can only guess at what type of headline would have seemed appropriate to Professor Mead. If he decided employ the same logic he used in this post, it might look something like this,

    “Massive Starvation in Red States Inevitable As Food Becomes Increasingly Inedible.”

    • Walter Russell Mead

      If I wanted evidence that the Blue Model was breaking down, the fact that more and more people regard Newsweek and the Washington Post as empty entertainment vehicles rather than as sources of serious information and analysis would be a useful data point. Perhaps what you are telling me is that I am still so blinded by Blue Model thinking that I am too willing to believe what I read in the mainstream media. Point noted.

  • Luke Lea

    In defense of Mead I think his main point is made: as Iowahawk shows, when you break it out by ethnicity Texas does better than the national average in every category. As does the United States as a whole compared to other countries. Where our schools fail is with the bottom half, not the top half. The idea that everybody should go to college, that white collar work is better than blue collar work, that manual labor is demeaning — these elitist, anti-democratic sentiments, which affect the Democratic Party just as much as the Republican Party, are at the root of this failure.

    As for practical remedies, I’ve suggested the idea of web cameras in every public school classroom. As it is now it is next to impossible to legally document student misbehavior or gross teacher incompetence on a case-by-case basis. By all reports this is the source of failure in our inner-city schools.

  • Laura

    Just a note on whole language: scientific evidence shows that the brain learns to read an alphabetic language phonetically. See Deheane’s book “Reading and the Brain” – it’s a report on recent neurological research, and it leads to the conclusion that WL is about as scientific and valid as, well, creationism. Recommended ammunition for anyone involved in the WL-Phonics fight.

  • Casey Smith

    A quick skim of the list, cross referenced against county-by-county electoral maps, tells me that many of the so-called “red state schools” are actually in the blue parts of otherwise red states.

    Of course map granularity isn’t the only gaping hole in this “analysis”: there is the use of a stale and misleading electoral map, as well as a strange fixation on a handful of so-called top performing schools rather than any aggregate metric of school system performance.

    And of course there’s the previously mentioned garbage methodology for the whole study, valuing quantity over quality and rewarding those who game the stats.

    My old high school scored #266 on last year’s list, yet it is an inner city high school that has experienced shootings and race riots on campus in recent years, and barely graduates more than 60% of students. It has historically gamed the system to get ranked by skimming the top performers into a “school within a school”, and pushing poor performers unnecessarily into special education to exclude them from metrics (not just Newsweek…this is how you beat NCLB).

    A study like the one cited should use better metrics, or people shouldn’t cite it: getting into good colleges rather than just going to college, graduating with good grades or against high graduation standards rather than just graduating, passing AP tests rather than just taking them. Or entirely different metrics that isolate student performance improvement from entrance to exit.

    Bottom line: I don’t know whether it is cynicism, recklessness, or just desperation to find evidence to support one’s distorted world view that drove the author to write this piece, but it isn’t worth the www it’s printed on. And I’m very disappointed in my friend who linked it to me.

  • Tom Kinney

    And I’m sure it’s just coincidental that Texas has alone created 37% of all jobs created in America since Obama took office as well as its having run a budget surplus in consecutive years.

    There’s a difference between managing (red) and mangling (blue).

    Then there’s (blue) New York city schools where it was recently revealed that its superintendent has mandated social promotions across the board (students go to class and check in then run the halls all day while teachers read the astrology charts and do crosswords); (blue)city Milwaukee where the illiteracy rate is 47% with most of the functional illiterates having actually graduated from high school or have GEDs and social promotion is the status quo; Illinois (blue) where Chicago pensions now have every taxpayer in debt to the tune of $63,000 plus per person; California (purplish blue from self-injurious behaviors) where nothing works, least of all the public schools.

    We don’t need Newsweek or the Beast to know there’s a problem in blue America.

    Nice scoring left jab in your final post, Mr. Mead.

  • jill colby

    ok, so I went to school and graduated in 1974 in Concord, MA. Even after skipping most of my junior and senior years my level of education is well beyond what I see here locally in Alabama and even most parts of Florida, for instance: on one of my sons finals to be eligible to graduate here in AL, there were questions posed such as “what’s west of California” his answer: water. question 2: “why do they call the north east corner of the u.s. the north east corner? correct answer: because it’s in the north east. Now, explain how that qualifies as quality education.

  • Joe

    These institutions have nothing to do with education. They are government indoctrination/propaganda centers. They require our youth to spend 17,000 of the best hours of their lives in detention. Read the book “Underground history of American education” to learn why. It’s free to read at this web site:

  • Bonfire of the Idiocies

    Money, teacher unions, red state, blue state, none of that ultimately matters. What matters is being able to get the students to do the WORK required to learn. Whether that happens because the children are gifted with natural curiousity or the parents stay after them or their cultural heritage instills in them a respect for teachers and learning is irrelevnat, as long as it HAPPENS. I was a bright but lazy student who was afraid to fail because I didn’t want to hear the noise that would emanate from my parents when I did. Maybe not the ideal motivation, but it worked. But that’s what’s required and until schools tell the real truth which is “we can’t teach, the students have to LEARN” they aren’t going to be successful.

  • Unions and money have never done anything to improve the schools. There are solutions, but the liberals won’t go near anything that will lessen their indoctrinating power.

  • Otis McWrong

    Most of those commenting here are too caught up in the methodology. While the title (“Shame of a Nation”) may have been a tad melodramatic, the central point – that teacher’s unions, centralized bureaucracies, etc are a failure – is unchanged.

    It is obvious to the intellectually honest that “good schools” is simply code for “good students”. Students entering high school are hardly blanks. Their success in high school (as demonstrated by metrics such as college attendance, SAT’s, etc) and beyond can only partly be attributed to whether their high school is “good”. It can much more be attributed to “were their parents interested in their education and did they push them to achieve” and more depressingly “does their culture value and encourage education”. If the answer to the last two is “no”, then all the schooling in the world isn’t going to help much. My own high school (#80 nationally in the Wash Po rankings) was populated almost entirely by children of the middle and upper-middle classes whose parents (having two parents is quite common) were college graduates and expected their kids to go to college. My senior year, over 95% of us did go to college. I can assure you, it had nothing to do with a largely inert teaching staff or lazy administration. Replace our student body with that of an inner city high school and I’d wager the school would inexplicably drop in the rankings.

    While we can all agree teacher’s unions are on balance destructive, I would argue that concluding one region or state or model is “superior” based on test scores is misleading. Yes, Mississippi has “worse” schools on average than Vermont. Perhaps that is due to level of spending, but perhaps it is at least partly due to MS being over 60% African American (to VT’s less than 1%).

    Before anybody concludes I’m guilty of the greatest crime of all – racism – consider the possibility that educated whites lying to each other about the challenges facing African Americans may not be terribly helpful to them. Further, consider that closing the “race gap” in test scores in one or two generations while doing nothing to address tremendous cultural obstacles (illegitimacy, low time preferences, music focusing on the most base human instincts, etc) is most likely not possible. A problem without a solution is not a problem, merely a fact of life. Focus on advancing kids – of all races – as much as possible, not on making everyone test equally well.

    The measure of a “good” school and a “good” teacher should be how much they improve their students. To claim to have insight on this without a baseline is silly.

  • Rootbeer

    I don’t understand why you’re using electoral results from the 2004 Presidential race to define “red” and “blue” states, when more recent and perhaps more meaningful indicators are available, and I don’t understand why you’re using localized indicators of public school performance at the individual high school level to draw generalized conclusions at the state and even the national level.

    I also don’t understand why Newsweek is identified as “Tina Brown’s Newsweek”.

  • Engineer

    At the risk of exposing myself to a charge of geezerhood along with tales of walking through snow to school . . .

    Back in the 1960s when I was in elementary school (suburban Indianapolis, midwestern red state) – class sizes were routinely in the high twenties to low thirties.

    During the recent recession, local suburban schools here (the Phoenix metro area, southwestern red state) had to consider teach lay-offs that would increase class sizes for elementary students from the high teens to the low to mid-twenties. The teachers’ response in on-camera interviews was that an educational apocalypse was on the horizon.

    Back in the 1960s kids learned despite would be considered scandalously low funding levels and enourmous class sizes by contemporary standards. Separating the cause and effect of the changes over 50 years is a full time job, but the broad conclusion that society is getting less for its educational dollar now seems clear to me.

    As I read Dr. Mead’s essays, I get the impression that we’re sharing first drafts and trial balloons of ideas that will reach print sooner or later in new book (or at least a learned paper in a prestigious journal). This one has seen a fine example of the wisdom of crowds to challenge a thinly sourced argument. However, I would encourage Dr. Mead to keep plugging because the relative decline of education or perhaps the declining productivity of education investment is a real phenomena. I strongly suspect there are links to the break-up of the Blue Social Model, even if this particular essay didn’t draw clear bright lines to illuminate those links.

  • Denise

    My son goes to the the school listed as 47th in Texas. We have low income and minority kids. It really is a great mix of all races and cultures. What makes our school good is that it is tough! You are expected to work hard; no exceptions! My son has a minimum of 4 hours of homework a night and has no time to get into trouble. The majority of the teachers are well vetted and are excellent. Most really know their stuff! My son does have time for one school related extra curricular activity. They also highly promote volunteering and giving back with your time. The parents expect their children to work hard as well…we are very involved, too! The majority of our kids go to college and find college the same if not a bit easier that their high school. Too many schools do not expect kids to work hard and “give” grades.

  • Russ

    Walter Russell Mead back pedaling is a hilarious sight!

  • teapartydoc

    It is apparent that a nerve was hit by this article. I don’t ordinarily read most of the replies, but a couple are doozies in the contemptuous ad hominem attack department. If the article was as bad as Wig Wag said it was I would think he would be eager to show more evidence than fang, but this doesn’t appear to be the case.

    Any reporting on this issue is not going to be very scientific and empirical, because of the nature of what is being studied. Having been one of those individuals that has confounded teachers at every level, I can tell you that what educators say about education really has no bearing whatsoever on the real world or outcomes in it.

    That said, I think that the whole issue of whether liberal propaganda about the quality of education relative to spending has really been put to rest by New York and California.

    By the way, I was educated in a red state, but I don’t think the state deserves any credit whatsoever. I educated myself. The teachers were just along for the ride.

  • Another Engineer

    OMG Florida and Texas each had a school in the top 10!! Coincidentally, they are the #2 and #4 more populous states. Could these facts be related???

    Take a look at the real statistics.

    NewsWeek Top 500 ranked schools per 1M people (2010 census):
    CA and NY combined = 2.05
    TX and FL combined = 1.85

    Those are the top four states in population, accounting for approx one-third of the entire US population. Blue States win by a nose!

    Before you get all excited, I’m not making some grandiose political statement. Just pointing out the shameless bias in this article. From my experience, the quality of schools has more to do with the County than the State. Every state has good and bad school districts. That’s why the most populous states have the most good schools. I bet they also have the most bad ones.

  • R. Porrofatto

    This is one of the most asinine, meaningless articles I think I’ve ever seen. Even if this survey were rock solid, the Red/Blue state assessment is patently absurd here as an indicator of anything, and dishonest to boot — it’s no wonder the Professor insists on using 2004 as his Red/Blue defining base instead of 2008, when there were 8 fewer Red states. But the numbers don’t work out even for his 2004 preference. It’s pathetic, really.

    Based on my quick count:

    In 2004:
    There were 30 Red states. 215 of their schools are in the Newsweek top 500.
    There were 20 Blue states. 285 of their schools are in the Newsweek top 500.

    In 2008:
    There were 22 Red states. 101 of their schools are in the Newsweek top 500.
    There were 28 Blue states. 399 schools of their schools are in the Newsweek top 500.

  • Anthony

    In the information age, higher-paying jobs tend to be those that reward fast learning and good communication…. American K-12 education has two fundamental shortcomings, one in achievement and the other in equity. This is an American problem not an ethnicity problem.

    WRM’s discussion as I understand it has nothing (nada) to do with ethnicities. Anyone interested in parsing United States education into ethnic categories ought to review OECD assessment of student achievement in thirty countries. America, not categorical ethnics, is comparing poorly among tested countries (we tested in bottom quartile). For some the word ethnicity is self-exculpatory and used as a marker to imply better scores…. The decline and comparative status of our schools cannot be primarily tied to academic abilities of certain ethnicities.

  • GREG


  • smintheus

    Hilarious stuff. The WaPo states of its own list that it is “not a measure of the overall quality of the school”. And of course it isn’t; the list is based on nothing more than a single statistic of dubious value. But Mead runs with it anyway!

    The Newsweek list is heavily reliant upon the same metric, and some similarly dubious metrics…and in any case, includes only the very small minority of schools that felt like replying to Newsweek’s time-consuming questionaire. Had I been a public school principal and received this package from Tina Brown, I would have tossed in the trash where it belonged. So maybe what Newsweek’s list reveals is that red-state schools are exceptionally and desperately eager to gain positive publicity, or can’t recognize a time-wasting exercise as well as blue-state schools.

  • Jimo

    So, to summarize:

    If you’re a state that allows great disparity in resources for schools, you rank “high.” Thus, states that–overall–produce the most pathetic educational results are “winners.”

    If you’re a state that demands equitable apportionment of public finances for all schools, you rank “low.” Thus, states that–overall–produce average educational results are “losers.”

    Got it. Well, at least we all gained a lessen on the statistical concepts of “mean” and “outlier”!

  • Seth

    Your previous postings have been very insightful, but this one seems off the mark. You are looking at top ranked schools rather than top school systems, then interpreting the top schools as being representative of their states rather than possible outliers within larger struggling systems.

  • Mike C

    To paraphrase Frank Zappa: Dance, dance, dance, dancin’ blue!

  • willie

    I would like to see the criteria for this “study”. When students come to our school in upstate NY from Florida, they are woefully behind in all subjects, and especially in math. Keep bashing schools, unions, and teachers and see performance plummet and apathy rise. This is just another effort to privatize education.

  • I would like to give Tom Kenney a shout out for mentioning Direct Instruction. It is an absolute disgrace that this method is not used more widely, especially in poor performing schools.

  • Nadine G.Mendelsohn-Ziskind

    Nadine G. Mendelsohn-Ziskind What are the criteria for top rated schools Most schools now teach to the test and allow very little independent or critical thinking. Perhaps the reason that “red” state school are ranking high is that they teach only what is needed for the test and allow no exposure to other ideas. Teaching inn a college level history department in Alabama, I find that the freshman students are unprepared for college, and are unable to analyze information from many sources to draw conclusions. They are waiting to be hand fed facts to be memorized and regurgitated on a test where they have been told the test questions in advance. The quality of writing in their essays is seventh grade level in grammar and spelling, let alone style and originality.

    In addition, SAT scores are not reliable predictors of college success.

  • Betsy

    Everyone knows that in a meaningful statistical analysis you discard the outliers. You definitely don’t base policy on them. So the ten best and ten worst schools in the country should not be looked at as measures of the effectiveness of the statewide policies. Rather, we should be looking a the statewide numbers. I doubt that they tell quite the same story.

  • ice9

    Magnet schools and schools with very low student/teacher ratios do well. Schools with admission requirements or other challenges (student-supplied transportation, for example) do very well. Poor children do poorly. Nothing new in this survey, except that it’s being held up as evidence in support of policies which it absolutely refutes.

    Put another way: this piece clearly demonstrates that the right wing is not interested in education.

  • NotPropagandized

    It’s interesting that there’s a concentration of private prep schools in New England and the East/UpperMidAtlantic and that, indeed, it’s a richer geo/demography. I wonder what the regional or blue/red state comparative statistics are for private school alternatives. There may or may not be a hypocrisy in New England that public education and schools are much of an afterthought when rich kids are sent to these prep schools en masse.

  • marianne

    You may need to do a little more research. The highest ranking states are “blue states” and the lowest ranking states are “red”. I suppose we can twist and spin statistics anyway we like.

  • Barbara Piper

    Surely the most we can conclude from the rankings Prof. Mead cites is that Red States are capable of hosting excellent high schools. Especially, as one poster mentions, when they are located in high income neighborhoods. A more meaningful study would compare the performance of ALL high schools on a state-by-state basis; any state can support an excellent high school, but to extend that excellence to all students in the state is a real challenge.

    Alternatively, look at top high schools in lower income communities – it’s almost an oxymoron, I know, but there are a few. City Honors high school in Buffalo, for example, is a top 10 high school on the WAPO list, yet it’s located in a low rent section of an economically depressed city, subverting all expectations of the relationship between the wealth of a community and the excellence of its schools. Now that’s impressive.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      Exactly. My own view is that large units like states (much less Washington) can’t do much to create excellence system wide. It is a question of individual teachers and schools (to say nothing of parents).

  • Mac McGrady

    I live in a school district in Maryland that was just awarded the prestigious #1 Public School system in the nation by Education Week Magazine. Montgomery county, Maryland has an 85% high school graduation rate compared to the national average of 71%. I proudly wear my “The bluer the state, the better the education” tee-shirt!

    • Walter Russell Mead

      Then logically you believe that the District of Columbia and the state of California have the best public schools in the country.

      But as a former resident of Montgomery County — three of whose siblings attended public schools there — I do agree: Montgomery County has some very good public schools.

      Congratulations to the principals, teachers, students and parents in your district.

  • Brian Skinn

    A related question occurs: what are the criteria by which federal education dollars are distributed to the various school systems? If they are based on the same or similar criteria as Newsweek used — tests taken rather than scores achieved, etc. — then the whole business is a farce. Did the architects of this whole system ever put a moment’s thought into the incentive structure they were creating?

    Separately, WRM writes: “The conventional liberal explanation [for any relative outperformance of blue states by red states, however defined], sometimes cited by readers of this blog, is that the red states tend to be net recipients of federal taxes thanks to progressive taxation and social programs aimed at the poor.”

    Implicit in and integral to this explanation is an idea that somehow federal dollars are more effective at improving schools (or effecting whatever end) than are dollars that have not been shipped ’round the horn through federal taxation and disbursement. Frankly, this is just preposterous. If processing dollars through the federal grist gilds their edges, then why is not every federal program a glistening example of efficacy and efficiency?

  • MimiR

    Mac McGrady, I live in MD, too. The school spending is a DISGRACE. Montgomery Co. does well ONLY because the parents are rich and teach their snowflakes at home or pay for them to get tutoring. There is not a single high school in Montgomery Co. that has the kinds of options and the level of education available in my Texas high school that had a free/reduced lunch rate of 45%. Were the average outcomes lower in the school with lots more poor kids of poor parents, many of whom don’t speak English? Sure. But EVERY kid there had access to the same programs, if they chose to make the effort and if they could hack it. The district even paid the full AP test fees of any needy student.

    I’m homeschooling my kids, and they’re beating the pants off the Montgomery County schools. That’s because a kid with caring parents does better homeschool than anywhere else. Montgomery County parents are suckers. They’re mostly also homeschooling their kids (it’s called “homework” and it’s where 85% of the learning takes place for most kids) but they don’t know it and they’re giving the schools credit for inferior results. “Great” compare to other institutional schools? Sure. But the institutional model is broken.

    There’s not one other 8-y-o in Montgomery County schools who is taking algebra and 7th grade reading. There are plenty who are smart enough–it’s a rich school district, remember–but they are made stupid by the schools and by their parents who are misguided into thinking that they’re being educated at school.

  • Kenny

    The red state schools are destined to outshine those in the blue states because in the blue (Democratic) states, the unions are strong enough to block educational reform.

    So, the blue states can squander all the money they want. That money will only go into the pockets of the education establishment as their schools contine to fall further and further behind right-to-work states.

    Face it. The teachers unions are a detriment to good education. Fact.

  • Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr

    When I graduated from high school in 1964, California and New York battled annually for 1st and 2nd. Now California and Arkansas battle annually for 49th and 50th. The leftists have succeeded in giving away our country and destroying our hope for the future, our children’s education. Equality at the bottom of the barrel is too high a price to pay.

  • lwjwl

    My children are a perfect example of what the difference is in an private vs public education. The more each spent in an private school, the more advanced they were. My oldest had to be tutored in reading and math because of a poor 3rd grade public school teacher. My oldest graduated with her class with much correcting of the damage that the public school system did to her. My middle child graduated a year ahead because of the private education that she participated in. My youngest began her senior year at 15 years old and graduated with honors. That is because she was in private education from the beginning. She was fortunate that she was able to get a great foundation in her education before I let her go into the public school system. After she graduated at age 16, she took some time off to work at a pizza place where she learned that she didn’t want a low paying job and needed to further her education. Both of my youngest children are doing VERY well. It has been a struggle for my oldest child to finish getting her degree.
    From my own personal experience in educating myself after a very poor public school education and getting my children educated in private and public schools, I can say that our public educational system really SUCKS!

  • Nora

    You must be color blind or confused – or, or – just plain lying.

    For all those of you who “know someone”, you are committing the logical fallacy of generalizing from an individual case. There is always variation. It is the aggregate data that counts. A single case is just that – a single case. Could be the exception and does in no way prove your point.

    Gee, may these logical fallacies prove the point that alternative schooling does not make for a very strong educational foundation!

  • matthew hall

    I would have thought that Mr. Mead would have seen past this superficial view to the very different social contexts of these regions. The elitist nature of southern society allows these top southern schools to exist by funneling the best of everything to them and away from other schools. The inequality of education in the south, just like in everything else, is much greater than in the rest of the country. The gap between rich/poor, powerful/powerless, and educated/uneducated is much greater than the rest of the country. The south may have many of the best schools but it also has many of the worst. Thats the real story.

  • pete

    Yes, the key will be innovation and rewarding success. Home-schooling and charter schools will be important, but the most effective approach will be to unburden education of the government/union (Blue Model) monopoly and to enable school choice and private school competition within the system.

  • Nick Caramello

    The Newsweek article statistics are dubious at best, and the Washington Post statistics are laughable. In the Newsweek article a higher weighting was given the the administration of tests than the results of the tests, the entrance to college was not weighted against the readily available national rankings for colleges, and only 20% of the weighting was granted to standardized tests. It may well be that the red states have a better education system, but to try to support that theory with such a shoddy analysis is, ironically, academically lacking.

  • Mr. Weiss

    The study makes some sound arguments. What a bunch of haters.

  • dlkjhg8vtwpvkuf76580


    “Across Atlanta Public Schools, staff worked feverishly in secret to transform testing failures into successes.

    Teachers and principals erased and corrected mistakes on students’ answer sheets.

    Area superintendents silenced whistle-blowers and rewarded subordinates who met academic goals by any means possible.”

  • JC

    Incredibly weak post by the normally perspicacious Mr. Mead. Not sure how a national top-500 list out of tens of thousands of schools (about as unrepresentative sample as one can imagine) can lead logically to such a sweeping generalization. I haven’t done much research, but it seems to be that the red states may just have more extreme quality stratification, due to lack of busing policies, etc. That is, their good schools (full of rich kids) are exceptionally great, but their weak schools (full of poor kids) are exceptionally weak. But what happens when one looks at the state’s overall averages? This:

    Red states not looking so hot anymore.

    For the record, though, my wife teaches first grade, and we are very dissatisfied with the top-down bureaucracy in her state. Want better schools? Give teachers more control over their own teaching practices, rather than having committee’s come up with the curricula. Some of the most successful charter schools have used this model.

  • Kira nelson

    This is for Tom Kinney and Josh Kilroy.

    Whole Language does have it’s advantages. It falls under the Constructivist Learning Theory and there is reliable research to suggest that it is effective, especially in younger children. It has backing because it has merit. Respected educational psychologists like Vgostsky, John Dewey, Piaget and Howard Gardner, were all early pioneers of Constructivism. I’m not saying that there isn’t a time and a place for DI. There is, and it is incorrect to assume that whole language teachers do not teach phonics or use direct instruction. They do, along with games, music, drawing and rhymes.

    There is a reason that experts in pedagogy support Constructivist Learning in college education programs. It’s because there is scientific research, evidence and data to support it’s effectiveness.

    One more thing. What was does that sarcastic comment about Madison, protests, and enlightenment have to do with any of this? Protests are a right of the American people and protests are patriotic. You don’t have to agree with your current political administration to be a patriot.

  • Mark B

    How is it that nobody is pointing out the glaring misapplication of so-called statistics to prove some sort of partisan fueled “win” against the evil liberals. How can you explicitly correlate the fact that Texas, for example, having 4 of the top 11 schools in the country means that the state of Texas has a better education system troughout?
    Texas ranks 47th in SAT/ACT scoring and 40th in graduation rates. So while some affluent folks get to go to the elite schools on the list, the rest of the kids in the state are generally screwed.
    But congratulations, I guess, because most Americans are too gullible to realize the gigantic fallacious assumption you cleverly forget to mention in your article – without which, every claim you make has absolutely no grounds in the real world.

  • Reinhard Lindner

    From a recent article: “recently released rankings of how states’ primary education systems are preparing students for careers in engineering, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Jersey top the list.” In the complete rankings, Alabama is 47th. Probably a liberal plot, but just saying.

  • Public School Victim

    I’d be more impressed with an area of the country that completely did away with the government monoply on education.

  • Person that goes to the TAG magnet

    I go to TAG and i’m pretty sure we’re actually learning and working hard. The majority of the students would dissapointed if they get a 95 on their report cards. Plus, you can’t say it’s just because rich white kids go there, we have people from all kinds of backgrounds/races. And, yes, we have paved roads, internet, and cellphones down here.

  • Tom

    This article is embarrasing. What a joke. The southern culture in this country of not getting above your roots has put the south 100 years behind the north. But as long as they have a few dozen “good” schools throughout some southern states everyting is okay?

  • The Down Object Schools Schedule is a Nonsegmental States governance schedule created in 1981 to purity schools which acquire achieved peaky levels of execution.

    Private Middle School Miami

  • Ryan Webb

    Blue States have twenty out of twenty top PRIVATE schools in the country. Florida and Texas are HUGE with few options for private schools. It is ironic, but your conclusions are backwards.

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