Friday, January 9, 2009

The Best Schools

Earlier this week, Education Week announced their rankings of all 50 states in terms of how they're doing on education. The state that was ranked number 1 in the country is Maryland. Shortly after Maryland comes Massachusetts and then New York.

To my mind, the interesting question is not so much which state is on top, it's why that state is on top. And this is where is starts to get really interesting.

According to a report by MGT of America and given to the Maryland General Assembly, the difference is more money. As the Baltimore Sun reports, "For every additional $1,000 spent per student, there was a significant increase in pass rates in [reading and math]." A very interesting finding because every Republican and a fair number of Democrats will tell you that throwing more money at education is not the solution. And yet, more money seems to have made a difference in the top education state in the country.

That being said, I think that common sense will tell us that more money alone is not the solution. What really matters is how that money is spent. Again according to the Sun, 80% of the new money was put into the teaching staff in the form of increased pay, hiring more teachers to reduce class sizes, and professional development. The money was also used in a targeted way that didn't spread it all around equally, but focused it "to provide the most help to special education and poor students and those learning English."

What a concept. Focus on the kids who most need help and use money to recruit and develop a high quality teaching staff. No wonder Maryland schools are doing so well.

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