1. Alabama: Chickasaw City Schools
> Location: Mobile County
> Annual per student spending: $9,372
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 14.4%
Smaller class sizes have been shown to in some cases have a positive effect on academic performance. In Alabama’s Chickasaw City Schools, a district that covers three schools enrolling about 1,000 students, there are 20.8 students for every teacher, compared to a state average student-to-teacher ratio of 17.8 to 1 state and a national ratio of 16.1 to 1.
Many area students likely face additional disadvantages outside of the classroom. Children growing up below the poverty line deal with unique hardships and stressors that can have a negative impact on academic performance. In the Chickasaw district, a staggering 41.3% of children age 5 to 17 live below the poverty line, well above the child poverty rate of 22.4% across Alabama.
2. Alaska: Lower Kuskokwim School District
> Location: Bethel Census Area
> Annual per student spending: $32,652
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 13.2%
Like in much of the state, spending in Alaska’s Lower Lower Kuskokwim School District is very high, but that has not translated to good outcomes for students. Less than 10% of students test as proficient in math or reading, and less than half of high school students in the district graduate on time.
Children living in poverty often face challenges and stresses that can hinder academic success, and a staggering 37.5% of 5 to 17 year olds in the district live in poverty, about three times the state’s child poverty rate.
3. Arizona: Window Rock Unified School District 8
> Location: Apache County
> Annual per student spending: $14,746
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 11.3%
Children growing up in poverty face a host of unique challenges that, among other things, can undermine academic performance. In Arizona’s Window Rock Unified School District 8, located on the Navajo Nation reservation in the northeastern section of the state, a staggering 44.4% of children live in poverty, a far greater child poverty rate than the state rate of 18.8%.
Disadvantages for local students do not end there. Children raised by college-educated parents are more likely to succeed academically than those who were raised by parents without a postsecondary education. In Window Rock, however, just 11.3% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, well below the 28.9% share of adults across the state.
4. Arkansas: Osceola School District
> Location: Mississippi County
> Annual per student spending: $12,094
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 9.1%
The conditions associated with poverty can detract considerably from overall academic performance. In Arkansas’ Osceola School District 1, 40.1% of children age 5 to 17 live below the poverty line, nearly double the state’s child poverty rate of 21.5%.
Additionally, children raised by parents with a college education have a greater than average chance at academic success. In the district, just 9.1% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, less than half the 22.6% statewide bachelor’s degree attainment rate.
5. California: Mendota Unified School District
> Location: Fresno County
> Annual per student spending: $11,111
> Adults with a bachelor’s degree: 2.1%
While there is debate about the level of benefit of smaller class sizes on students, many studies have shown at least some academic benefits. The student to full-time teacher radio in the district is close to 26 to 1, one of the worst in the country; the nationwide average student-to-teacher ratio is 16.1 to 1. The average SAT score of students in the district is 950, and the average ACT score is 18, both well below the national average test scores.
Children whose parents have lower educational attainment are more likely to struggle in school, and in Mendota, just 2.1% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, the lowest share in the district and one of the five lowest out of any district in the United States.