States With the Best (and Worst) Schools

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Few issues facing the United States — or any nation — are more important than ensuring children receive a first-rate education. Policymakers and observers disagree as to how to spend public education funds and how exactly schools should be improved. Most agree that school proficiency must be measured.

The U.S. education system is about average compared with other high-income nations, trailing 14 countries on the most recent Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test, which in 2015 evaluated millions of 15-year-old students in over 70 countries. Many U.S. students perform as well or better than students in countries with top schools, but such achievements are limited to few states.

To highlight this geographic disparity, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed education data for each state in the 2018 edition of the Quality Counts report, provided by Education Week. The education research center considered dozens of metrics across three broad categories that can determine the strength of a school system: school finances, student achievements, and environmental factors.

Education Week’s rankings of state education systems have changed relatively little over the past several decades. States with the best and worst schools continue to cluster in particular regions, with top rated schools grouped primarily in the more affluent regions of the Northeast and Midatlantic. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Sterling Lloyd, assistant director of the Education Week Research Center, noted this year’s report “reflects a mix of strengths and weaknesses along with substantial disparities in the performance of high and low-performing states.”

The picture is not entirely static. But while there have been encouraging developments — high school graduation and college participation increased over the past year — “[Most] schools continue to struggle with wide achievement and funding gaps,” Lloyd said.

Click here to see the states with the best (and worst) schools.
Click here to see our detailed findings.
Click here to see our methodology.