The poll measured the responses of 2,200 registered voters across 12 southern states, including North Carolina, and the participants proportionately matched the demographics of the states they represented. It showed a consensus across age, political affiliation, race, gender and location.
In a press release, the Columbia Group outlined four main priority areas for improvement they believe state leaders and educators should focus on: making the South the best place to teach in the nation, providing new types of support and resources for today’s students, ensuring these resources are adequate and clearing all students’ path from high school to their next steps in education and work.
Stephen Dolinger, the president of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, said in a Columbia Group press release that states have made significant improvements in education over the last few decades, but the pace of progress isn’t enough to provide every child with an excellent education.
“All Columbia Group organizations will be encouraging thought leaders and policymakers to use this report and accompanying poll results to make needed changes so all students in each Columbia Group state are receiving the education they deserve,” he said.
While Southern states have made great strides in many areas of education, the rapid economic and demographic changes in the region require states to make more progress, according to the report.
The report said states must deal with the historic inequities in education that continue to hold back many parts of the region. It said children in the South should have a rigorous and engaging education and that underserved or lower-performing students should receive the extra help and support they need.
Kristin Blagg, a research associate in the Education Policy Program at the Urban Institute, shed some light on the perception of education in the South.
“Broadly, schools in the South tend to be funded at lower levels per student than schools in other parts of the country,” Blagg said in an email. “But southern states also tend to have lower average incomes, and more disadvantaged students, than other parts of the country.”
Commonly known as the “nation’s report card,” the National Assessment of Educational Progress is a reading and mathematical assessment given to a representative sample of students across all 50 states.
When the test scores are adjusted to account for demographic differences, the results show a clearer view of the state’s academics.
“When we adjust for cross-state differences in student characteristics on the NAEP, a national test of education achievement, we see that some southern states, such as Florida, Texas and Georgia, rise in their academic performance relative to other states,” Blagg said.
Using the same scale, North Carolina ranked fourth in the nation, just under Florida, as of 2015.