UAH education professor discusses state ranking in national article

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When it comes to academic testing whether on the state or national level, "there is always room for improvement," said Dr. Beth N. Quick, Dean of the College of Education at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

Quick was responding to the recent national article

According to the article, the closest example to a nationwide comparison of student performance is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), an assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas. To determine the best and worst states for education in the U.S. students were ranked according to scores for Reading assessment in eighth grade. Scores for Mathematics and Science were also included in the report.

Quick said it should be noted, that "proficient" NAEP scores do not translate to "on grade level" for students. She advises caution when considering the validity of NAEP scores, since the assessment is only given to a "small sample" of fourth and eighth grade students in each state every two years.

The best states, according to the article for education are New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, Minnesota, Montana, Wisconsin, Idaho and Nebraska.

And, the worst states for education includes Washington, D.C., Mississippi, New Mexico, Louisiana, Hawaii, Nevada, California, Arkansas, Alabama (#9) and West Virginia.

In explaining discrepancies with how the assessment was administered and scores listed in the "best states" category, Quick said, "overall Wisconsin scores are strong, but in Mathematics, the achievement gap between white and black students on the NAEP was 43 points, worse than all other states. The same is true for Reading, where the achievement gap of 36 points was the worst of all states. And, she noted, "Massachusetts was called out for excluding students with disabilities from taking the NAEP which resulted in inflated scores. The state excluded 66 percent of fourth graders with disabilities and 60 percent of eighth graders with disabilities from taking the exam."

She commented too, on Alabama’s position in ninth place in the article. Quick pointed out that the rankings in the report are based on the number of students who score "proficient or above".... poverty, race, inequities among schools greatly affect the scores.

"We need to focus on math content knowledge and research-based pedagogical strategies for teaching math," Quick said. "Unfortunately, science and social studies are, at best, taught inconsistently and infrequently, in the elementary grades. We teach what we test - math and literacy."

Quick is very pleased with the College of Education’s focus on differentiating instruction so "all" students learn. "We focus on adaptations and accommodations to meet students where learning is challenging, but achievable, for each learner.

"I am extremely proud of UAH’s Early Learning Center (ELC) and the inclusive education we offer for young learners with blended/braided funding streams. We have also just completed a national grant focused on equipping in-service teachers to work with English Language Learners (ELLs)," Quick said.

"Our Regional Autism Network (RAN) and M.Ed in Autism Spectrum Disorders equip teachers to more effectively serve children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. We also offer two state-funded Pre-K classrooms in our ELC. And, our dual licensure programs in general education and collaborative (special) education equip our initial licensure teacher education candidates to meet the needs of learners. The Ability Sport Network (ASN) grant allows us to work with student athletes in programs such as wheelchair basketball," she said.

When asked what her personal educational wish list for higher academic achievement would include, Quick said, "I would focus on Pre-K research-based pedagogical practices in mathematics and literacy education.

"Less focus on standardized testing and more focus on instruction and creating meaningful Learning Integrated teaching in the elementary grades rather than subject specific teaching with students moving across multiple teachers. And, well articulated alignment between assessment systems and educational standards/outcomes," she added.

Quick said she would also like to see the development of a career pathway for teacher mentors, coaches, and leaders including more resources for meaningful professional development, induction and coaching of novice teachers. Last but not least, she said, is an "infusion of more mental and emotional health counselors into school settings."

Parents need to do their part in ensuring a healthy learning atmosphere for children, too. Quick said parents should also:

  • Read to your children and dialogue daily about school learning and assignments.
  • Communicate with teachers.
  • Be present and engaged in school functions and events.
  • Monitor academic performance and engagement of students using online grading systems, etc.

Besides additional funding for state of the art educational tools and supplies, Quick would also like to see more funds specifically directed to "Pre-K and early childhood education; continue investing in successful federal programs, such as Head Start, Early Head Start, and provide social support services and services for children with disabilities and developmental delays."

The news website The Cheat Sheet, offers a selection of articles from online news outlets on popular stories. The publication is produced by American news and opinion website, The Daily Beast.


Dr. Beth N. Quick
Dean, UAH College of Education