The American education system continues to compare unfavorably to other affluent nations. In international testing, American students rank behind 18 countries in science and behind 36 in math. Nationwide statistics in student achievement, however, tell relatively little about the potential success of students in a particular U.S. school district.
American school districts are largely funded by local sources such as property taxes. So while affluent districts can afford to spend thousands more — sometimes tens of thousands more — per student, providing cutting-edge technology, a diverse range of courses, and other amenities, schools in poor districts can sometimes struggle to afford competent teachers and maintain the school building.
While schools in poorer districts receive funding from the state and federal governments, the funding rarely comes close to evening out the playing field. Across the nation, annual per student spending ranges from less than $10,000 to more than $30,000 in some cases.
That difference in spending is actually only one component that contributes to the differences in student success across the country. Children who live in poverty, or those whose parents lack a high school or college education or are much more likely to struggle in school than those growing up in affluent homes with college-educated parents.
To determine the school district where students are least likely to find success, 24/7 Wall St. developed an index based on each district’s share of adults with a bachelor’s degree, child poverty rate, teacher-to-student ratio, per-pupil spending, preschool enrollment, and high school graduation rate.