By Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 11, 2011; 1:35 AM
For the third straight year, Maryland's public education system is ranked the nation's best overall in an assessment of state policies and student performance to be published Tuesday.
Maryland received a B-plus from the news outlet Education Week, a grade that took into account student achievement, school finance and various education policies. New York and Massachusetts, with B grades, were ranked second and third, respectively. Virginia, with a B-minus, placed fourth.
The District of Columbia ranked near the bottom with a grade of D-plus. The federal capital was included in the analysis even though the District is difficult to compare because it is not a state. The District ranked just ahead of last-place Nebraska.
Experts debate the merits of rankings of state school systems. Depending on the criteria for judging them, one state or another can rise to the top. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) often boasted about the state's top Education Week ranking last year in his reelection campaign.
"Our goal is create great educational opportunities for every child in every neighborhood in Maryland," State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick said in a statement. "Recognition of our state's track record of success is gratifying to all of us who work to strengthen our schools. . . . However, we have no intention of raising a victory flag as yet."
In an analysis of student performance trends - including increases in test scores over time and how much states close achievement gaps - Education Week ranked Massachusetts the best in the country, followed by New Jersey and Maryland in that order. Virginia ranked 14th and the District 49th, ahead of West Virginia and last-place Mississippi.