Special Report

The Worst School District in Each State

Every child is born to a unique set of circumstances. And it is these different social, familial, economic, environmental, and many other factors, that help shape who they become. While these conditions are countless, a handful of factors play an outsized role in a child’s development and likelihood for future success — including academic success.

Whether or not a child succeeds academically can depend considerably on school quality. A student who falls behind in one school district might 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 school district that offers the worst chances for student success in every state. The index measures include: the child poverty rate, the teacher-to-student ratio, per-pupil spending on education, 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 during their school years, they can provide 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 education spending alone is not an assurance of improved academic 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.

Click here to see the worst school district in each state.
Click here to see our methodology.