States With the Best (and Worst) Schools

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5. New Hampshire
> Overall grade: B-
> State Score: 82.3
> Per pupil spending: $14,561 (8th highest)
> High school graduation rate: 87.0% (9th highest)
> Eighth graders proficient in math or reading: 46.8% (5th highest)

New Hampshire was one of only two states to receive an A- from Education Week in the Chance for Success category. Nearly 72% of children lived in families whose income was more than 200% of the poverty threshold in 2013, the highest rate in the country. While roughly 47% of children nationwide had at least one parent with a college degree, 61% of New Hampshire children did in 2013. Children living in such families are more likely to attend college later in life. As of 2013, nearly 64% of students aged 18-24 in New Hampshire were either enrolled in a post-secondary degree program or had a degree, among the highest rates. New Hampshire’s school finances are similarly strong. On average, school districts spent more than $14,500 per student in 2012. However, the distribution of that spending is troubling. The spending gap between the state’s top and bottom districts was more than $10,000 per pupil, nearly the largest in the country.

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4. Vermont
> Overall grade: B
> State Score: 83.0
> Per pupil spending: $18,882 (the highest)
> High school graduation rate: 93.0% (the highest)
> Eighth graders proficient in math or reading: 46.9% (4th highest)

On average, Vermont school districts spent nearly $19,000 per pupil In 2012, more than in any other state. The state seems to prioritize education more than most, as Vermont spent more than 5% of its state GDP on education, also the most nationwide. While large budgets do not necessarily yield strong outcomes, Vermont students performed better than most of their peers in other states on national tests. Nearly 47% of eighth graders were proficient in mathematics, for example, a higher proportion than in all but three other states. The state also had the nation’s highest four-year high school graduation rate, at 93% in 2012.

3. Maryland
> Overall grade: B
> State Score: 85.2
> Per pupil spending: $12,435 (18th highest)
> High school graduation rate: 84.0% (16th highest)

Nearly 51% of 11th and 12th graders in Maryland excelled on Advanced Placement tests in 2012, the only state where a majority of students performed better than average on Advanced Placement exams. Maryland also had the largest nationwide improvement in students’ Advanced Placement test scores between 2000 and 2012. Younger students also outperformed their peers on standardized tests. Nearly 45% of fourth graders were proficient in reading, more than 10 percentage points higher than the national figure and second-highest nationwide. Unlike many other states with top-rated school systems, Maryland school financing was relatively well-distributed. The difference in per pupil spending between the worst and best-funded schools districts was $3,565, one of the lower figures reviewed.

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2. New Jersey
> Overall grade: B
> State Score: 85.5
> Per pupil spending: $15,421 (5th highest)
> High school graduation rate: 87.0% (9th highest)
> Eighth graders proficient in math or reading: 48.9% (2nd highest)

New Jersey school districts benefit from the state’s wealth, with more than $15,000 spent per pupil in 2012, more than in all but a handful of states. While nearly all districts in the state spent more money per student than the national average of $11,735, some areas of the state spent much more. The gap between districts at the fifth and 95th percentiles for per pupil spending was nearly $10,000, more than twice as wide as the national gap in spending. Many students also enjoyed the benefits of early education. In 2013, 63.1% of eligible children were enrolled in preschool, the second highest rate nationwide.

1. Massachusetts
> Overall grade: B
> State Score: 86.2
> Per pupil spending: $13,157 (16th highest)
> High school graduation rate: 86.0% (12th highest)
> Eighth graders proficient in math or reading: 54.6% (the highest)

According to Education Week, Massachusetts school systems are the best in the nation. Massachusetts eighth graders led the nation in mathematics aptitude, with 18.2% achieving advanced-level performance on math sections of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, more than twice the national rate. A greater percentage of the state’s fourth and eighth graders were also proficient in both math and reading than in any other state. Strong performance among young state residents clearly led to further success, as more than 70% of 18 to 24 year olds were either enrolled in college or had already completed a post-secondary degree, the highest proportion in the nation. As in other states with strong schools, Massachusetts residents are financially well-off. Nearly 70% of children lived in families with incomes at least 200% of the poverty level, the fourth highest proportion in the country.

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