Special Report

States With the Best and Worst Schools

Samuel Stebbins

The Common Core State Standards Initiative, implemented during the Obama administration, established a uniform set of expectations for American public school students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Still, the authority to establish budgets, standards, and curriculums for public school students falls largely to state governments — and partially as a result, education outcomes vary considerably across the country. 

24/7 Wall St. created an index, inspired by the Quality Counts ranking of state education created by independent news journal Education Week, to identify the states with the best and worst schools. States were ranked from best performing down to worst on a variety of measures covering school funding, academic achievement, and enrollment. 

High rates of proficiency in reading and math and the share of students who graduate on time are direct measures of how effective a state’s school system is — and the highest ranking states on this list tend to do well in these measures. For example, in each of the top 10 states on this list, the share of 8th graders proficient in math and reading exceeds the 32.9% and 32.4% national averages. Similarly, in nine of the top 10 states, graduation rates exceed the 84.6% national average. Here is a look at the U.S. cities where students are most likely to graduate from high school

Other data included in our index, like public school funding per pupil and preschool enrollment, do not reflect student outcomes but can often be indicative of school quality and a child’s likelihood for academic success. While there are countless external factors that can affect a child’s academic performance, including family income and parental educational attainment, we only included measures directly related to state school systems. 

It is important to note that this list is intended to rank state school systems as a whole, and that a state’s ranking on this list is not indicative of school outcomes and quality in specific districts. Even in lower ranking states, there are schools and school districts with better than average outcomes. Here is a list of the best public high school in every state.

Click here to see the states with the best and worst schools
Click here to read our methodology