The Mackinac Center recently published a high school report card that accounts for student socioeconomic differences. While this “Context and Performance” report card produced several illuminating results, its main limitation is that it only compares schools within Michigan. Fortunately, a new study published by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance gives a much broader comparison of school performance. Unfortunately, the results aren’t very good for Michigan’s public schools or the nation as a whole.

The study, conducted by researchers from Harvard, Stanford and the University of Munich, finds that Michigan ranked 35th of 41 states in terms of average annual growth from 1992 to 2011 on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, widely considered the “nation’s report card.” Scores from fourth- and eighth-grade math, reading and science were evaluated. Clearly, despite the fact that there are high-performing high schools identified in our CAP Report Card, this state is still in need of improvement.

The results for the nation aren’t much better. Of 49 developed countries, the United States ranks only 25th in average annual student growth based on international standardized assessments in math, reading and science from 1995 to 2009. This nation is in need of improvement, too.

One method for improving public schools both in Michigan and the nation as a whole is to identify the highest-performing schools and states and attempt to replicate their successful practices. Both the CAP Report Card and the new Harvard study are important because they allow for these kinds of analyses. Hopefully, both of them will be used to drive improvement for public schools.