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FROM CRADLE TO CAREER: Education Week Report Stresses Education as a Continuum, Highlights States Providing the Best Opportunity for Student Success

“Overall, the Index captures the cumulative effects of education experience from birth through adulthood and pinpoints the chance for success at each stage and for each state,” said Christopher B. Swanson

Children born in Virginia, Connecticut, or Minnesota are more likely to experience success in their lives than their peers in other states, according to an analysis published last week. On the other hand, children born in New Mexico, Louisiana, or Arizona are more likely to face educational and economic difficulties. So says From Cradle to Career: Connecting American Education From Birth Through Adulthood, the latest in a series of Quality Counts reports that are published annually by Education Week.

The report bases its rankings on a Chance-for-Success Index that was developed by the Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) Research Center. The Index is based on thirteen different indicators—both economic and educational—that are grouped into three stages of life: the early years, the school-age years, and the adult years. It includes everything from family income and parents’ education levels to elementary school reading scores, high school graduation rates, and employment rates. As a result, it offers a perspective on the importance of education throughout an individual’s lifetime.

“Overall, the Index captures the cumulative effects of education experience from birth through adulthood and pinpoints the chance for success at each stage and for each state,” said Christopher B. Swanson, director of the EPE Research Center. “We find that a child’s life prospects depend greatly on where he or she lives.”

As shown in the chart below, individuals born in the South and Southwest are the least likely to succeed in life, while those born in the Northeast and North Central states are in a much stronger position.

Chance-for-Success Index: The Top 10 and the Bottom 10

Rank State

Points Awarded

Rank State

Points Awarded

1 Virginia


  51 New Mexico


2 Connecticut


  49 (tie) Louisiana


3 Minnesota


  49 (tie) Arizona


4 New Jersey


  48 Texas


5 (tie) Maryland


  45 (tie) Tennessee


5 (tie) Massachusetts


  45 (tie) Mississippi


5 (tie) New Hampshire


  45 (tie) Alabama


8 Wisconsin


  43 (tie) West Virginia


9 (tie) Nebraska


  43 (tie) Nevada


9 (tie) Vermont


  41 (tie) South Carolina


        41 (tie) Kentucky



In calculating the Chance-for-Success Index, EPE awarded states one point when they performed significantly better than the national average on a particular indicator. If a state outpaced the nation by a very large margin, it received two points. Conversely, states that fall below the national average lose a point or two, depending on the size of the difference. The maximum score on the index is +26; the lowest possible score is -26.

The Chance-for-Success Index also acts as a tool to determine how successful states have been in connecting education from pre-kindergarten through postsecondary education and defining what students need to know and do to move successfully from one stage of education to the next. Unfortunately, successes have been few and far between. “In the United States, the historical separation between various levels of education, and the consequent lack of communication and coherence across sectors, means that children and older students are lost at every juncture,” the report reads.

According to the report, states have achieved some success in the early grades, but much more work needs to be done. For example, forty-one states and the District of Columbia have early-learning standards that are aligned with the academic expectations for elementary schools. In the higher grades, however, many states report that they are working to better align high school graduation requirements with college- and workforce-readiness standards, but few actually have these requirements in place. According to the report, only eighteen states and the District of Columbia have a distinct definition of workforce readiness, and only eleven states have adopted a formal definition of college readiness.

In the past, Quality Counts has focused on state policies for improving elementary and secondary education, but, as Lynn Olson, Education Week’s executive project editor, said at the report’s release, “children’s chances for success don’t just rest on what happens from kindergarten through high school. They are also shaped by experiences during the preschool years and by opportunities for continued education and training beyond high school.”

The complete report is available at

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