Special Report

This Is Your State’s Best School District

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

The federal government guarantees equal access to a public education for all children in the United States. Beyond that, however, Washington’s role in America’s school system is decidedly limited. Public schools in the U.S. receive most of their funding – around 90% – from state and local governments. And if budgets are a reflection of values, education is a much higher priority in some parts of the country than others. 

Depending on the state, per pupil spending in the U.S. ranges from an average of more than $25,000 to less than $10,000 annually, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. (Here is a look at the states with the best and worst schools.)

While the correlation between spending and student outcomes is complicated, schools with relatively small budgets often have lower teacher salaries and are more likely to have difficulty filling open positions with qualified candidates. These schools also have fewer resources to fund facility updates, advanced and remedial learning programs, and extracurricular clubs and sports teams. 

Still, in every state – even those with lower than average spending per pupil – there is at least one school district that stands out, not only for high graduation rates and standardized test scores, but also for being well regarded by both students and parents. 

Using data compiled by Niche, an education and community research platform, 24/7 Wall St. identified the best school district in each state. Niche ranked schools based on a weighted index of multiple measures, including standardized test results, graduation rates, student-teacher ratios, extracurricular clubs and sports teams, and parent and student surveys. A full description of each measure and its weighting is available here

Of the 50 school districts on this list, all but eight spend more per student each year than the average national per pupil expenditure of $12,239, as reported by Niche. Additionally, only four top-ranking districts with available data have graduation rates below 90%, and in most of them, 95% or more of students graduate. (Here is a look at the 50 best public high schools in America.

Here is the best school district in every state.

Alaska: Skagway School District

  • Location: Skagway, AK
  • Student-teacher ratio: 11:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: N/A
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 82% in reading; 77% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 1220 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $23,873 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 142

Alabama: Homewood City Schools

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Homewood, AL
  • Student-teacher ratio: 17:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 94%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 74% in reading; 55% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 27 out of 36 in ACTs; 1190 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $20,635 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 4,236

Arkansas: Haas Hall Academy

  • Location: Fayetteville, AR
  • Student-teacher ratio: 14:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 95%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 84% in reading; 82% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 29 out of 36 in ACTs; 1290 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $5,588 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 1,293

Arizona: Chandler Unified School District No. 80

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Chandler, AZ
  • Student-teacher ratio: 19:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 93%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 57% in reading; 49% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 26 out of 36 in ACTs; 1300 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $10,803 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 43,923

California: Palo Alto Unified School District

  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Student-teacher ratio: 18:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 94%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 80% in reading; 79% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 32 out of 36 in ACTs; 1410 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $26,678 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 11,395

Colorado: Cheyenne Mountain School District No. 12

  • Location: Colorado Springs, CO
  • Student-teacher ratio: 15:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 97%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 73% in reading; 60% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 29 out of 36 in ACTs; 1290 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $15,548 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 3,663

Connecticut: Westport School District

Source: Tyler Blodgett / iStock via Getty Images
  • Location: Westport, CT
  • Student-teacher ratio: 11:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 98%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 82% in reading; 74% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 31 out of 36 in ACTs; 1320 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $26,565 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 5,303

Delaware: Appoquinimink School District

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Odessa, DE
  • Student-teacher ratio: 16:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 95%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 52% in reading; 37% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 25 out of 36 in ACTs; 1160 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $18,066 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 13,087

Florida: Sarasota County Schools

  • Location: Sarasota, FL
  • Student-teacher ratio: 19:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 92%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 63% in reading; 63% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 26 out of 36 in ACTs; 1230 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $13,328 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 43,896

Georgia: Buford City Schools

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Buford, GA
  • Student-teacher ratio: 19:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 93%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 61% in reading; 67% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 27 out of 36 in ACTs; 1200 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $13,497 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 5,759

Iowa: Pleasant Valley Community School District

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Bettendorf, IA
  • Student-teacher ratio: 16:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 96%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 85% in reading; 87% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 28 out of 36 in ACTs; 1370 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $11,847 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 5,549

Idaho: McCall-Donnelly School District

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Mccall, ID
  • Student-teacher ratio: 16:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 95%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 74% in reading; 59% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 27 out of 36 in ACTs; 1200 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $11,698 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 1,392

Illinois: Adlai E. Stevenson High School District No. 125

  • Location: Lincolnshire, IL
  • Student-teacher ratio: 16:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 96%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 73% in reading; 72% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 31 out of 36 in ACTs; 1360 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $37,088 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 4,392

Indiana: West Lafayette Community School Corporation

Source: akrassel / iStock via Getty Images
  • Location: West Lafayette, IN
  • Student-teacher ratio: 14:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 95%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 70% in reading; 66% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 32 out of 36 in ACTs; 1350 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $14,580 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 2,369

Kansas: Blue Valley Unified School District (Overland Park)

  • Location: Overland Park, KS
  • Student-teacher ratio: 14:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 97%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 57% in reading; 47% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 29 out of 36 in ACTs; 1370 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $14,566 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 22,376

Kentucky: Beechwood Independent Schools

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Fort Mitchell, KY
  • Student-teacher ratio: 20:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 95%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 61% in reading; 59% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 28 out of 36 in ACTs; 1290 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $11,273 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 1,513

Louisiana: Zachary Community Public Schools

  • Location: Zachary, LA
  • Student-teacher ratio: 18:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 97%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 60% in reading; 46% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 25 out of 36 in ACTs; 1230 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $12,392 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 5,509

Massachusetts: Hopkinton Public Schools

Source: TammyFullum / iStock via Getty Images
  • Location: Hopkinton, MA
  • Student-teacher ratio: 14:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 99%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 78% in reading; 71% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 30 out of 36 in ACTs; 1340 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $17,386 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 4,006

Maryland: Howard County Public Schools

Source: mdagdept / Flickr
  • Location: Ellicott City, MD
  • Student-teacher ratio: 13:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 93%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 49% in reading; 34% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 29 out of 36 in ACTs; 1290 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $18,394 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 57,325

Maine: Athens Public Schools

Source: BWFolsom / iStock via Getty Images
  • Location: Athens, ME
  • Student-teacher ratio: 11:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: N/A
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 95% in reading; 92% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: N/A
  • Annual district spending: $19,092 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 120

Michigan: Novi Community School District

  • Location: Novi, MI
  • Student-teacher ratio: 17:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 93%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 72% in reading; 73% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 31 out of 36 in ACTs; 1350 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $13,953 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 6,612

Minnesota: Wayzata Public Schools

Source: Bobak Ha'Eri / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Plymouth, MN
  • Student-teacher ratio: 18:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 97%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 78% in reading; 75% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 30 out of 36 in ACTs; 1400 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $20,282 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 12,018

Missouri: Ladue School District

  • Location: St Louis, MO
  • Student-teacher ratio: 13:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 97%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 70% in reading; 64% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 29 out of 36 in ACTs; 1450 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $17,320 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 4,382

Mississippi: Biloxi Public School District

Source: Sean Pavone / iStock via Getty Images
  • Location: Biloxi, MS
  • Student-teacher ratio: 15:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 87%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 48% in reading; 60% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 25 out of 36 in ACTs; 1160 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $13,333 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 5,978

Montana: Bozeman High School District

  • Location: Bozeman, MT
  • Student-teacher ratio: 17:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 87%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 70% in reading; 42% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 28 out of 36 in ACTs; 1320 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $28,143 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 2,502

North Carolina: Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Chapel Hill, NC
  • Student-teacher ratio: 13:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 93%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 66% in reading; 60% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 30 out of 36 in ACTs; 1330 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $17,929 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 11,563

North Dakota: Kindred Public School District

  • Location: Kindred, ND
  • Student-teacher ratio: 12:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 90%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 59% in reading; 59% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 25 out of 36 in ACTs
  • Annual district spending: $13,238 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 862

Nebraska: Elkhorn Public Schools

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Elkhorn, NE
  • Student-teacher ratio: 15:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 95%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 76% in reading; 77% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 28 out of 36 in ACTs; 1310 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $17,798 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 11,094

New Hampshire: SAU 70

  • Location: Hanover, NH
  • Student-teacher ratio: 11:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 95%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 84% in reading; 75% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 30 out of 36 in ACTs; 1360 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $25,355 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 1,038

New Jersey: Northern Valley Regional High School District

  • Location: Demarest, NJ
  • Student-teacher ratio: 10:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 98%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 71% in reading; 58% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 30 out of 36 in ACTs; 1330 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $47,184 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 2,076

New Mexico: Texico Municipal Schools

  • Location: Texico, NM
  • Student-teacher ratio: 16:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 84.5%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 62% in reading; 41% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 23 out of 36 in ACTs; 1040 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $15,820 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 555

Nevada: Douglas County School District

  • Location: Minden, NV
  • Student-teacher ratio: 16:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 89%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 51% in reading; 36% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 26 out of 36 in ACTs; 1230 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $12,687 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 5,383

New York: Jericho Union Free School District

  • Location: Jericho, NY
  • Student-teacher ratio: 12:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 99%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 86% in reading; 91% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 32 out of 36 in ACTs; 1420 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $39,926 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 3,182

Ohio: Indian Hill Exempted Village School District

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  • Location: Cincinnati, OH
  • Student-teacher ratio: 14:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 95%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 88% in reading; 84% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 31 out of 36 in ACTs; 1360 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $20,790 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 2,131

Oklahoma: Jenks Public Schools

  • Location: Jenks, OK
  • Student-teacher ratio: 17:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 92%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 35% in reading; 34% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 26 out of 36 in ACTs; 1310 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $11,675 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 12,519

Oregon: Lake Oswego School District

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Lake Oswego, OR
  • Student-teacher ratio: 18:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 96%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 72% in reading; 61% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 30 out of 36 in ACTs; 1330 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $29,361 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 6,854

Pennsylvania: Radnor Township School District

  • Location: Wayne, PA
  • Student-teacher ratio: 14:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 97%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 86% in reading; 72% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 31 out of 36 in ACTs; 1350 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $26,584 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 3,601

Rhode Island: Barrington Public Schools

  • Location: Barrington, RI
  • Student-teacher ratio: 14:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 96%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 70% in reading; 55% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 29 out of 36 in ACTs; 1300 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $16,951 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 3,377

South Carolina: Fort Mill School District

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Fort Mill, SC
  • Student-teacher ratio: 14:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 96%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 71% in reading; 65% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 27 out of 36 in ACTs; 1210 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $15,959 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 17,868

South Dakota: South Central School District

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
  • Location: Bonesteel, SD
  • Student-teacher ratio: 11:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: N/A
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 44.5% in reading; 34.5% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: N/A
  • Annual district spending: $21,747 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 75

Tennessee: Maryville City Schools

Source: mcpuckette / iStock via Getty Images
  • Location: Maryville, TN
  • Student-teacher ratio: 16:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 96%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 55% in reading; 58% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 28 out of 36 in ACTs; 1320 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $11,224 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 5,604

Texas: Eanes Independent School District

  • Location: Austin, TX
  • Student-teacher ratio: 15:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 99%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 74% in reading; 70% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 31 out of 36 in ACTs; 1360 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $26,715 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 7,834

Utah: Northern Utah Academy for Math Engineering & Science (Nuames)

  • Location: Layton, UT
  • Student-teacher ratio: 23:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 99%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 74% in reading; 58% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 27 out of 36 in ACTs; 1300 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $8,130 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 1,134

Virginia: Falls Church City Public Schools

  • Location: Falls Church, VA
  • Student-teacher ratio: 16:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 95%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 89% in reading; 84% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 29 out of 36 in ACTs; 1320 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $21,421 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 2,492

Vermont: Norwich School District

  • Location: Norwich, VT
  • Student-teacher ratio: 15:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: N/A
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 84% in reading; 79% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: N/A
  • Annual district spending: $37,410 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 339

Washington: Bellevue School District

  • Location: Bellevue, WA
  • Student-teacher ratio: 19:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 93%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 79% in reading; 73% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 31 out of 36 in ACTs; 1370 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $22,701 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 19,510

Wisconsin: Elmbrook School District

  • Location: Brookfield, WI
  • Student-teacher ratio: 15:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 98%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 60% in reading; 61% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 29 out of 36 in ACTs; 1380 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $14,303 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 7,727

West Virginia: Monongalia County Schools

Source: BackyardProduction / Getty Images
  • Location: Morgantown, WV
  • Student-teacher ratio: 14:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 92%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 53% in reading; 45% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 26 out of 36 in ACTs; 1190 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $13,939 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 11,309

Wyoming: Sheridan County School District No. 1

  • Location: Ranchester, WY
  • Student-teacher ratio: 13:1
  • Avg. graduation rate: 92%
  • Students proficient in core subjects: 69% in reading; 64% in math
  • Avg. standardized test scores: 24 out of 36 in ACTs; 1190 out of 1600 in SATs
  • Annual district spending: $15,187 per pupil
  • Total enrollment: 1,132

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