Q&A

Q: What is the purpose of the Global Report Card (GRC)?
A: The GRC provides information on the average level of student achievement in math and reading in virtually all U.S. school districts relative to the student achievement in a set of international peers.
Q: What do the measures of achievement for a district mean?
A: The numbers reported to indicate the level of math and reading achievement are percentile rankings. A percentile ranking describes where the average student in a district is in achievement relative to where students in the average developed economy would be performing. For example, a score of 60 means that the average student in a district does better than 60% of the students in the average developed economy.
Q: How can we manage to compare the achievement in U.S. school districts to achievement in other countries?
A: Students in every district take state accountability tests in math and reading. We use the results from those tests in every grade to generate an average level of achievement in each district. We then adjust that level of achievement up or down based on the extent to which the average achievement in that state, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), is higher or lower than the national average. We then adjust each districts achievement up or down again based on the extent to which the U.S. does better or worse than students in a set of countries with developed economies, as measured by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).

For a more detailed explanation of the methodology, click here.
Q: What if I can't find a district that I am looking for?
A: You may need to refine the way in which you are searching for the district. You can identify the district from a list of districts for each county and for each state. You can also try to search by the name of the district. Remember that the names of the districts are not always the same as the name of the city or town in which the district is located.

In addition, the American Institutes for Research (AIR), the organization that collected the state accountability test results we used for the Global Report Card, did not have results for every district and every state in every year. The AIR data set is the most comprehensive collection of district test results, but unfortunately it has its limitations.
Q: What is a good score?
A: We leave that up to you to judge.
Q: What if the score for a district just doesn't seem right?
A: The results may surprise you because the comparison we are making here is not the one that you are accustomed to seeing. Normally we compare student achievement in a district relative to the average achievement in a state or relative to a stated goal for achievement (such as basic, proficient, advanced, etc…). In the Global Report Card we are comparing against a set of international peers, so the results may be different from what you have seen in the past.

It is also possible that any particular result could be distorted by an error in the data set. With almost 14,000 school districts, it is inevitable that some errors will find their way into our results. We are also dependent on AIR data base for district test results, so any errors in that data set will be reproduced here. Overall, errors should be rare, but we will do our best to identify and correct any errors that are uncovered.
Q: Does a district with a low score mean that it has bad schools?
A: Not necessarily. The Global Report Card scores simply indicate the level of achievement without attempting to isolate the various factors that contributed to that level of achievement, such as the roles played by families, communities, cultures, and school quality. Future versions of the Global Report Card may begin to disentangle the unique contribution of each of those factors to student achievement.
Q: Don't we care about more than just student test scores when considering education outcomes?
A: Of course we do. But student achievement in math and reading are predictive of the future success of those students. We should care about all of the factors that contribute to the success of our students, including math and reading test scores.
Q: Why do I see charter schools listed for some states but not for others?
A: The AIR data set from which we are working has test scores for virtually every school district. In some states charter schools are classified as if they were their own school district, and would be included in our results. But in other states charters are not treated as if they were school districts and those charters are not reported in our results. We apologize for the inconsistency but it is a reflection of different state systems for charter schools.
Q: Where are the results for private schools?
A: The Global Report Card only has information on public school districts.
Q: How were the rankings developed?
A: To construct the Global Report Card we combine testing information at three separate levels of aggregation: state, national, and international. At each level we use the available testing information to estimate the distribution of student achievement.

The calculations begin by evaluating the student achievement distributions at the state, national, and international level. To allow for direct comparisons across state and national borders, as well as testing instruments, all data is mapped to the standard normal curve using the appropriate student level mean and standard deviation. The lowest level of aggregation is then calculated by estimating average district quality within each state. Each state's average quality is evaluated using national testing data. Finally, the average national quality is determined using international testing data. This evaluation re-centers the distribution of district quality based upon the relative performance of the individual state when compared to the nation as a whole, as well as the relative performance of the nation when compared to the international set of competitors.

The methodology was also reviewed by outside peer reviewers.

Additional information about the methodology can be found in the Technical Appendix. The material and rankings provided are the opinion of the George W. Bush Presidential Center based on this study's methodology and the most recent data that was available for this analysis.

Whitepapers Available for Download


U.S. Math Performance in Global Perspective: How Well Does Each State Do at Producing High-Achieving Students?

Eric Hanushek, Paul E. Peterson, and Ludger Woessmann Cambridge, MA: Program on Education Policy and Governance, Harvard University, 2010
Hanushek, Peterson, and Woessmann compared the percentage of American students who graduated from high school in 2009 who were designated as "highly accomplished" in math according to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) with the percentage of students designated as "highly accomplished" in other countries…

Linking NAEP Achievement Levels to TIMSS

Gary W. Phillips
American Institutes for Research, 2007

Gary Phillips, chief scientist at American Institutes for Research, correlated the performance of American students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) with the performance of international students on the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)…

Teaching Math to the Talented: Which Countries — and States — are Producing High-Achieving Students

Eric Hanushek, Paul E. Peterson, and Ludger Woessmann
Education Next 11(1), Winter 2011

Hanushek, Peterson, and Woessmann publish their data regarding the performance of high achieving students. They explain that given the necessity for the United States to create highly trained scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs, the United States must eliminate the achievement gap between Americans and the rest of the world…

Chance Favors the Prepared Mind: Mathematics and Science Indicators for Comparing States and Nations

Gary W. Phillips
American Institutes for Research, 2007

Phillips finds that "most states are performing as well or better than most foreign countries." While some Asian countries outperformed the US, the US was generally on par with other English-speaking nations…

How Much do Educational Outcomes Matter in OECD Countries?

Eric Hanushek and Ludger Woessmann
Economic Policy, 26(67), July 2011

Hanushek and Woessmann explain that current research in growth neglects to fully explain the difference in growth between varying OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries…

Globally Challenged: Are U.S. Students Ready to Compete? The latest on each state's international standing in math and reading

Paul E. Peterson • Ludger Woessmann • Eric A. Hanushek • Carlos X. Lastra-Anadónatest
At a time of persistent unemployment, especially among the less skilled, many wonder whether our schools are adequately preparing students for the 21st-century global economy. …

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