2014′s States with the Best and Worst School Systems
Unless one is destined to assume the ranks of wildly successful college dropouts like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, education remains the traditional route to financial success for many Americans. Consider the median incomes for workers aged 25 and older in 2013. Those with a bachelor’s degree earned 59 percent more than those with only a high school diploma, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That figure grows — and chances of unemployment shrink — as a worker’s educational attainment improves.
And with school resuming session, it's a good time to reflect on which school districts offer the greatest chance for children’s academic success — and higher future earning potential. In comparing schools, it’s important to recognize that though the amount of state funding a school receives can be helpful, it is by no means a determinant of quality.
In addition, states that invest more dollars in education benefit not only their residents but also their economies. The Economic Policy Institute, or EPI, reported that income is higher in states where the workforce is well educated and hence more productive. With higher incomes, workers in turn can contribute more in taxes to beef up state budgets over the long run.
In light of back-to-school season, WalletHub studied the quality of education in the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia to identify those with the best and worst school systems. We did so by analyzing 12 key metrics — from student-teacher ratios and dropout rates to test scores and bullying incident rates. By shining the spotlight on top-performing states in terms of education, WalletHub can encourage parents to help their children realize their maximum potential.
School System Quality Rank
Education Output & Safety Rank
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Back-to-school season isn’t just about shopping for school supplies. Many parents also must consider the quality of education their children receive in order to succeed. To expand the discussion, we’ve asked a panel of experts to share their advice and thoughts on important back-to-school-related issues. Click on the expert’s profiles to read their bios and responses to the following key questions:
- What tips can you offer parents for keeping their back-to-school budgets under control?
- How can parents effectively use back-to-school to teach their kids about financial responsibility?
- How effective is exempting various back-to-school items from sales taxes?
- What are the most important characteristics of a top school?
- When it comes to a student’s success, which is more important: the family environment or the student’s school?
As back-to-school season arrives, WalletHub compared the school systems among the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. We used 12 key metrics, including student-teacher ratios, dropout rates, test scores and bullying incident rates to assess the quality of education in each state. By highlighting the best school systems, families relocating in the near future can use the available information to compare schools for their children.
The corresponding weights we used are shown below. The two categories under which the metrics are listed were used for organizational purposes only and did not factor in to our overall rankings.
School System Rank
- Presence of Public Schools from one State in Top 700 Best US Schools: 1
- Remote Learning Opportunities from Online Public Schools: 1
- Dropout Rates: 1
- % of Children Who Repeated One or More Grades: 1
- Bookworms Rank: 0.5
- Pupil/Teacher Ratio: 1
- Math Test Scores: 1
- Reading Test Scores: 1
Education Output & Safety
- Safest Schools (Percentage of Public School Students in Grades 9–12 who Reported being Threatened or Injured with a Weapon on School Property): 1
- Bullying Incidents Rate: 1
- Percentage of People (25+) with Bachelor’s Degree or Higher: 0.5
- Champlain University High School Financial Literacy Grade: 1
Sources: Data used to create these rankings is courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Center for Educational Statistics, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Education Association, the Kids Count - Anney E. Casey Foundation, the Center for Financial Literacy - Champlain College, Stopbullying.gov, U.S. News & World Report and K12.com.