States With the Best and Worst School Systems

5. Arkansas
> State score: 81.7
> State grade: B-
> High school graduation rate: 70.6% (16th lowest)
> Per pupil expenditure: $11,275 (25th lowest)

With an A grade, Arkansas scored better than any state except Georgia for transitions and alignments. The state is one of just eight where high schools are required to have a curriculum designed to prepare students for the postsecondary education system. Arkansas also scored second out of all states in the teaching profession category, receiving a score of B+.  It is one of just 11 states to have a program that rewards teachers for raising student achievement, and is one of just 10 to provide incentives to principals to work in targeted schools.  Despite some impressive scores, Arkansas ranked well below the majority of states in chance for success, K-12 achievement and school finances.

4. Virginia
> State score: 82.9
> State grade: B
> High school graduation rate: 76.0% (19th highest)
> Per pupil expenditure: $9,786 (15th lowest)

Virginia scored in the top third of states for all the six major categories that Education Week looked at, and scored in the top 10 in four of them. Virginia had the eighth-highest score for K-12 achievement. More than 37% of 11th and 12th grade students scored at least a 3 on an advanced placement exam in 2011, higher than any state except Maryland. The state was also rated sixth for the teaching profession category. It is one of just eight states to provide incentives to board-certified teachers to teach in targeted, hard-to-staff schools and one of 11 to have a pay-for-performance program that rewards teachers who raise student achievement.

Also Read: The States that Recovered Most (and Least) From the Recession

3. New York
> State score: 83.1
> State grade: B
> High school graduation rate: 78.4% (10th highest)
> Per pupil expenditure: $16,239 (4th highest)

New York was just one of five states with a grade of B+ or better for school finances. The state was just one of four in 2010 to have every single one of its public school districts spend more per pupil than the national average. School districts in the state spent $16,239 per pupil in 2010, the fourth-highest figure in the country and the best among the 10 states on this list. However, Governor Andrew Cuomo has argued that this funding has not necessarily led to higher achievement in the classroom, and the grade of C- for student achievement, ranked in the middle of all states, backs that assertion. This month, the governor proposed closing that gap by requiring  students to spend more time in the classroom with either a longer school year, longer days or a combination of both.

2. Massachusetts
> State score: 84.1
> State grade: B
> High school graduation rate: 79.1% (8th highest)
> Per pupil expenditure: $13,507 (13th highest)

Massachusetts received the highest grades of all states for both  K-12 achievement and chance for success. It was the only state where more than half of fourth and eighth graders scored proficient in mathematics on assessment tests in 2011 — 58.4% and 51.2% respectively. Massachusetts was also the only state in the country where more than 50% of fourth-graders were deemed proficient in reading, as less than a third of students in the U.S. received that distinction. If history is an indicator of future success, outcomes for these students will be strong. More than 69% of 18- to 24-year-olds are enrolled in higher education or have a degree — the highest of all states. It is also the only state where more than half of those ages 25 to 64 have a postsecondary degree.

1. Maryland
> State score: 87.5
> State grade: B+
> High school graduation rate: 77.9% (13th highest)
> Per pupil expenditure: $12,953 (16th highest)

With an overall grade of B+, Maryland’s schools are considered the best in the country for the fifth year in a row.  Maryland was just one of five states in 2010 with 100% of school districts spending more per pupil than the U.S. average. In addition, a whopping 43.8% of 11th and 12th grade students scored a 3 or better on an advanced placement exam, the highest percentage in the country by more than six points and way over the national rate of 21.8%. State officials credited the strong rankings to, among other things, reforms in student standards and teacher evaluations thanks to funding from the federal Race-to-the-Top Initiative and a $50 million federal grant to improve early childhood education.

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