State ranks No. 1 for education despite years of controversy

Florida's overall No. 1 ranking was driven primarily by "stellar metrics in higher education" though it also performed strongly for K12.

Florida and its governor have stirred up plenty of controversy around K12 and higher education in recent years. But Florida still landed No. 1—for the second year in a row—in U.S. News & World Report‘s top 10 states for education rankings.

Florida’s overall No. 1 ranking was driven primarily by “stellar metrics in higher education” though it also performed strongly for K12. “The debate around education in Florida is among the most contentious in America,” U.S. News noted.

In preK-12, Florida earned its highest marks in college readiness, based on the 12th-graders’ SAT and ACT scores. However, the state ranked only 19th for high school graduation rate and No. 21 and No. 32 for eighth-grade reading and math scores, respectively, U.S. News added.

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Florida ranked last in another recent education ranking: teacher pay. The average Florida teacher earned about $54,000 a year in 2022-23, according to the National Education Association.

In higher ed, Florida boasts the second-highest “timely” graduation rates for students at two- and four-year public colleges and universities. Students at public, four-year institutions also paid the lowest average in-state tuition. The state “fell in the middle of the pack” for student loan debt and the number of residents 25 and older who have at least an associate degree, U.S. News found.

The state that ranked No.1 for preK-12, Massachusetts, ranked only 37th for higher ed despite being home to some of the nation’s most prestigious colleges.

Here is the top 10, including where each state ranked for preK-12 and higher ed.

  1. Florida
    • PreK-12: 10
    • Higher ed: 1
  2. Utah
    • PreK-12: 6
    • Higher ed: 5
  3. Massachusetts
    • PreK-12: 1
    • Higher ed: 37
  4. New Jersey
    • PreK-12: 2
    • Higher ed: 35
  5. Colorado
    • PreK-12: 12
    • Higher ed: 4
  6. Wisconsin
    • PreK-12: 8
    • Higher ed: 9
  7. Wyoming
    • PreK-12: 19
    • Higher ed: 2
  8. Connecticut
    • PreK-12: 3
    • Higher ed: 47
  9. New Hampshire
    • PreK-12: 4
    • Higher ed: 33
  10. Virginia
    • PreK-12: 9
    • Higher ed: 20
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is the managing editor of District Administration and a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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