States With the Best and Worst School Systems

5. Alaska
> State score: 71.0 (tied-4th highest)
> State grade: C-
> High school graduation rate: 69.3% (12th lowest)
> Per pupil expenditure: : $16,675 (3rd highest)

Alaska is one of four states to receive a D- for its standards in the teaching profession, the lowest grade given out in this category. Alaska is one of just a handful of states that lacks teacher reciprocity with other states, making it difficult to recruit talent into the state from other areas. In November, Governor Sean Parnell told the Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development he wanted it to adopt higher performance standards for teachers. Parnell also told the board he wanted teacher evaluations to be more closely connected to student performance. In 2009 only 37.6% of those ages 18 to 24 were enrolled in postsecondary education or had a degree, the lowest percentage of all states. The good news for Alaska is that it received better marks for its handling of education finances compared to most states. The state received a score of B-, ranking 13th of 50 states. This was better than all states within the bottom 10 overall.

4. Mississippi
> State score: 71.0 (tied-4th highest)
> State grade: C-
> High school graduation rate: 62.2% (4th lowest)
> Per pupil expenditure: $9,756 (14th lowest)

Mississippi was one of three states, along with Louisiana and West Virginia, to receive a failing grade for K-12 achievement. Only about a quarter fourth-graders in the state were deemed proficient in math in 2011, with less than 20% of eighth graders given the same distinction. Less than 4% of students in grades 11 or 12 received a 3 or above on an advanced placement exam during the year. This is the lowest rate of all states and much worse than the  21.9% across the U.S.  In addition to having one of the worst set of public schools overall, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools rated Mississippi as having the worst charter school laws in the country.

Also Read: American Cities Adding (or Losing) the Most Jobs

3. Idaho
> State score: 70.9
> State grade: C-
> High school graduation rate: 72.1% (21st lowest)
> Per pupil expenditure: $8,818 (6th lowest)

With a grade of D-, the state of Idaho received the worst marks for school finance.  Idaho spent just over $8,800 per pupil in 2010, one of the lowest of all states. A September report by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities showed the state had, since fiscal 2008, cut per-student spending by both a larger percentage and dollar amount than almost all other states in the nation. Idaho also ranked at the bottom for the teaching profession, with a grade of D-. Among other things, Idaho does not have policies in place to transfer pensions across state lines and does not provide financial incentives for teachers to earn national certification.

2. Nevada
> State score: 69.7
> State grade: C-
> High school graduation rate: 59.2% (the lowest)
> Per pupil expenditure: $8,419 (2nd lowest)

Nevada was tied with New Mexico for having the worst chance for success in K-12 education, receiving a D grade. Only 33.7% of students in 2010 had a parent with a postsecondary education, the lowest ranking of all states. The high school graduation rate in Nevada was 59.2%, the lowest rate in the country. Nevada spent $8,419 per-pupil in 2010, the second lowest of all states. Spending is low across the board  — the difference in per-pupil spending was just $2,028 between the fifth percentile and the 95th percentile. This was the second-smallest gap of all states. Once the rankings were released, Nevada School Superintendent James Guthrie told the Reno Gazette-Journal that the Clark County School District based in Las Vegas, the fifth-largest school district in the U.S., brought down the state’s ranking and that other districts in the state are performing significantly better.

Also Read: The Best and Worst Run Cities in America

1. South Dakota
> State score: 69.3
> State grade: D+
> High school graduation rate: 69.5% (13th lowest)
> Per pupil expenditure: $11,859 (21st highest)

South Dakota is the state with the worst-run school system, according to Education Week. The policies in place in South Dakota would make it very difficult to recruit top teachers. Among other weaknesses, South Dakota doesn’t have pension portability across state lines, doesn’t have a plan to formally differentiate roles among teachers and doesn’t pay teachers to earn national board certification. The state’s governor in 2012 proposed plans to eliminate tenure and pay $15 million annually in bonuses to both high-performing and hard-to-find teachers, although residents voted against the idea in November. South Dakota also scored third from the bottom in transitions and alignments.

Sponsored: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor

Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.