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Education Roundup: Maryland Tops Education Week Public School Rankings

In this week's roundup: Maryland's educational system ranks No. 1 for the fourth consecutive year.

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Welcome to the High School Notes weekly roundup of education news. Every Friday, you'll find out what's making headlines around the Web. 

State rankings

Yesterday, Education Week released its annual rankings of states' public school systems. The publication looked at six factors, including student achievement; a student's "chance for success" later in life if they attend school in the state; school finances; state assessments and standards; and teacher and school accountability.

Maryland tops the list, with generally good school finances, quality teachers, and students who leave high school ready for college. Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, and Arizona follow Maryland. South Dakota, Nebraska, and Washington, D.C. performed the worst, with some of the worst student test scores and college readiness indexes in the nation. 

Education funding

Federal funds that supported foreign language, civics, economics, and history courses were eliminated in the recent budget compromise, according to Erik Robelen of Education Week. The $27 million allocated annually for the Foreign Language Assistance Program, which supported the development of foreign language classes for the past 20 years, was completely eliminated.

"There is no funding for foreign language K-12 programs from the U.S. Department of Education in an era when our nation's language capacity is so greatly in need of strengthening," Martha Abbott, executive director of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, told Education Week.

Teacher evaluations

A new study by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation found that annual teacher evaluations are too infrequent to get a good handle on a teacher's ability. Annual evaluations had only a one-third chance of accurately assessing a teacher, according to the study. The study doesn't say specifically how often teachers should be evaluated, but evaluations should occur several times a year and should be "nuanced," according to the report.

Another study, by Harvard University, found that teachers have long-term impacts on student achievement. The 20-year study found that students whose test scores jumped while they had a specific teacher during elementary and middle school continued to improve for years after the class. Those students also had lower rates of teen pregnancy, higher rates of college graduation, and higher earnings as adults.

Meanwhile, New York districts are still struggling to establish teacher evaluation systems, and now U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is turning up the heat. Monday, he warned that the department would revoke the $700 million award New York won through President Obama's Race to the Top program two years ago if it doesn't make reforms.

"We are only interested in supporting real courage and bold leadership," Duncan said in a statement. "Backtracking on reform commitments could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars for improving New York schools."

Social networking

Nearly half of students who responded to a three-year survey conducted by a high school student in Bedford, N.Y., said that they have fought with a peer on Facebook. Alexandra Mitchell, a senior at John Jay High School, spent three years analyzing her peers' Facebook use. More than 40 percent of students said they checked Facebook more than seven times per day, and 40 percent of students said they have been hurt by something they saw on the site.

No Child Left Behind

On the 10th anniversary of No Child Left Behind, Time magazine interviewed former President George W. Bush about his controversial law. Bush said he is "extremely proud of the effects of No Child Left Behind." As for reforming the law, Bush said President Obama should instead show his support for it. "The President has to take the lead and say, 'Wait a minute, No Child Left Behind has worked. Let's not weaken it.'"

See how your school stacks up in our rankings of Best High Schools. Have something of interest to share? Send your news to us at highschoolnotes@usnews.com.