Where does your state rank on the list of best school systems?

Academic performance, funding, class size, instructor credentials and safety are key metrics, according to WalletHub's latest analysis.

“Quality” and “safety” are the two key measures in the 2022 rankings of the states with the best and worst school systems.

Academic performance, funding, class size and instructor credentials are among the other important metrics in the list released Monday by the personal finance website WalletHub. To determine quality, the 80-point scale considers high school graduation rates for low-income students, projected graduation rate increases over the next 10 years, dropout rate, math and reading scores, advanced placement scores, median SAT and ACT scores, and Blue Ribbon schools per capita.

Student behavior and technology are the two central safety components. The number of school shootings and other violent incidents, bullying and incarceration rates, students’ access to illegal drugs and weapons, injuries suffered by students, and parents’ perceptions of how safe their kids’ schools are figure into the behavior rating. On the tech side, the rankings look at the existence of digital and remote learning plans and whether states offer guidance on accessible technologies.

Spending is broken down into four categories: states with high spending and high quality, states with low spending and high quality, states with high spending and low quality, and states with low spending and low quality.

Here is WalletHub’s 2022 list of the best and worst school systems, with each state’s scores:

  1. Massachusetts: 72.79
  2. Connecticut: 66.22
  3. New Jersey: 64.05
  4. Virginia: 61.79
  5. Maryland: 60.6
  6. Delaware: 60.05
  7. New Hampshire: 59.19
  8. North Dakota: 58.42
  9. Nebraska: 58.12
  10. Wisconsin: 58.03
  11. Vermont: 56.71
  12. Maine: 56.09
  13. Utah: 55.53
  14. Florida: 55.35
  15. Minnesota: 55.21
  16. Rhode Island: 55.17
  17. New York: 54.86
  18. Pennsylvania: 54.32
  19. Iowa: 54.25
  20. Wyoming: 54.23
  21. Kentucky 53.94
  22. Indiana: 53.52
  23. Illinois: 53.23
  24. Colorado: 52.62
  25. Montana: 51.55
  26. South Dakota: 51.19
  27. Texas: 49.36
  28. Tennessee: 49.18
  29. North Carolina: 49.02
  30. District of Columbia: 47.65
  31. Washington: 47.56
  32. Arkansas: 47.22
  33. Kansas: 47.20
  34. Ohio: 47.10
  35. Missouri: 46.32
  36. Georgia: 46.07
  37. Idaho: 45.22
  38. Michigan: 44.12
  39. Nevada: 44.01
  40. California: 43.17
  41. Hawaii: 42.42
  42. Alabama: 39.8
  43. Mississippi: 38.65
  44. Oregon: 38.07
  45. Oklahoma: 38.01
  46. South Carolina: 37.31
  47. West Virginia: 37.18
  48. Arizona: 35.11
  49. Louisiana: 34.09
  50. Alaska: 33.05
  51. New Mexico: 26.07

There are some wrinkles in the ratings. While Massachuttes ranked first for both quality and safety, the state in the second slot, Connecticut, was No. 2 for quality but ninth for safety. New Jersey, No. 3 in quality, rated 21st for safety. WalletHub also noted that the highest state dropout rate (a tie between Arizona, New Mexico and the District of Columbia) was four times greater than in the lowest (Alabama).

School quality can be hard to determine based on funding alone—beyond the districts at either end of the pre-student spending scale, Christine Kiracofe, professor and director of Purdue University’s higher education Ph.D. program, told WalletHub.

“Once basic necessities are met for students, more money does not always lead to a direct increase in student outcomes,” Kiracofe said. “When students come to school having had access to an educationally supportive community—access to pre-school programs, opportunities for extracurricular learning, museums, educational camps, etc.—they are at a distinct advantage over students who have not had access to these things. Thus, increasing school quality really involves increasing what is available to entire communities.”

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is 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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