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Why do students have different achievement levels across states? Is math achievement improving across states? Differences in average achievement levels across states are mainly traceable to differing family characteristics. However, students from similar families also score differently across states. These differences are related to differences in resource levels and in how resources are spent. States with high spending per pupil, lower pupil-teacher ratios, higher participation in public prekindergarten and higher reported teacher resources have higher achievement. Disadvantaged children are the most sensitive to low resource, and additional resources could substantially their scores. Between-state, rather than within-state, differences in resources appear to be the main reason for inequitable resource levels for students of lower socioeconomic status. The conclusion is that significant math gains are occurring across most states that cannot be traced to resource changes, that the rate of gain varies significantly by state, and that reform efforts are the likely cause of these gains. The results certainly challenge the traditional view of public education as unreformable.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    The State NAEP Achievement Results and State Family and Educational Characteristics

  • Chapter Three

    Review of the Literature

  • Chapter Four


  • Chapter Five

    Trends in State Scores

  • Chapter Six

    Estimating Scores Across States for Students from Similar Families

  • Chapter Seven

    Effects of State Educational Policies

  • Chapter Eight

    Assessing the Cost-Effectiveness of Different Resource Utilizations

  • Chapter Nine


  • Appendix A

    State NAEP Test Scores and State Family and Educational System Characteristics

  • Appendix B

    NAEP Exclusion and Participation Rates

  • Appendix C

    Sources of Bias

  • Appendix D

    The Tennessee Experiment

  • Appendix E

    Family Variable Development

  • Appendix F

    Variable Definitions

  • Appendix G

    Statistical Results for Estimating State Trends

  • Appendix H

    Statistical Results for Estimating Score Differences for Students from Similar Families Across States

  • Appendix I

    Statistical Results for Estimating Effects of State Policy and Educational Characteristics

  • Appendix J

    Robust Regression Results

  • Appendix K

    Making Cost-Effectiveness Estimates from the Tennessee Class-Size Experiment

  • Appendix L

    Regression Cost Estimates

The research described in this report was supported by the ExxonMobil Foundation, the Danforth Foundation, the NAEP Secondary Analysis Program, and the Center for Research on Educational Excellence and Diversity and was conducted by RAND Education.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

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