Every child is born to a unique set of circumstances that help shape who they become. While these environmental conditions are virtually countless, a small handful of factors play an outsized role in a child’s development and likelihood for future success.
Whether or not a child succeeds academically can depend considerably on school quality. A student who falls behind in one school district may have excelled academically in another. By no means limited to the classroom, many of the strongest influences on a child’s future are in the home environment, and the resources available — or absent — there.
Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Education Statistics, 24/7 Wall St. developed an index of four measures to determine the best school district in every state. The index measures include: the child poverty rate, the teacher-to-student ratio, per-pupil spending, and the share of adults with a college education.
In our analysis, we also reviewed school district quality measures from education and community data clearing house, Niche. While favorable rankings in these measures do not alone ensure children’s chances for success through their school years and into adulthood, they can provide them with considerable advantages.
Half of the index used in 24/7 Wall St.’s ranking is related to the district’s school system itself. The student-teacher ratio — one of the metrics used — is an important indicator, as smaller class sizes allow for more individualized instruction and reduced likelihood of a student falling behind. Similarly, high annual education spending per-pupil means more educational resources that can benefit students. It is important to note, however, that high school spending alone is not an assurance of improved outcomes. Here is a look at the states that pay their teachers the most (and the least).
The other half of the index — child poverty and the share of adults with a bachelor’s degree — is focused on key socioeconomic factors outside of the classroom. Children in households facing serious financial difficulties are less likely to succeed academically, while children raised by parents with a college education are statistically more likely to do well in school. This is the number of children living in poverty in your state.
To determine the school district where students are most likely to succeed in every state, 24/7 Wall St. developed an index based on various measures of school finance, student success, and other socioeconomic measures. Data on per pupil spending in 2019 came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of School System Finances and was included in the index. Data on the ratio of students to teachers in the 2019-2020 school year came from the National Center for Education Statistics and was included in the index. Data on the percentage of children aged 5 to 17 living in poverty in 2019 came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates program and was included in the index. Finally, five-year data on the percentage of adults 25 and over with at least a bachelor’s degree by school district in 2019 came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and was included in the index. Only school districts with at least 500 students and at least three of four data points included in our index were considered. We also excluded districts with an overall grade below B on Niche.
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