This Study Ranked the Best — and Worst — States for Public Education

17,636 Views
k-12 education
el_clicks/Getty Images

If you have children, or you’ve considered expanding your family in the near future, you’ve probably spent some time thinking about schools.

The quality of the local school system will often be a major factor in where you decide to live.

Financial website SmartAsset recently published its annual list of the top states for K-12 education. So if you have kids, you might want to check there before locking yourself into a 30-year mortgage.

How Did They Rank The Schools?

SmartAsset collected data from all 50 states and factored in metrics like student-teacher ratio, amount of funding per student, graduation rate, college attendance rate and percentages of students taking and excelling in Advanced Placement courses.

They gave each state a letter score from A to F.

What Did They Find Out?

Schools in the Northeast seemed to dominate the top of the list.

New Jersey came in first and scored an A, with a student-teacher ratio of about 12:1 and a 90% high school graduation rate.

Perhaps the state’s high property taxes allowed it to afford to spend an average of $21,138 per student during the 2014-2015 school year.

The top 10 states for K-12 education are as follows:

1. New Jersey

2. Connecticut

3. Massachusetts

4. New York

5. Vermont

6. Maryland

7. Virginia

8. Iowa

9. North Dakota

10. Pennsylvania

The state that fared the worst on this list was Nevada, which earned an F grade and spends an average of only $7,557 a year per student.

The average classroom has nearly 18 students per teacher, and only 71% graduate from high school. Of those who graduate, nearly half — 48% — forgo enrolling in college within 12 months.

The bottom 10 states for public education are as follows (starting with the worst):

1. Nevada

2. Idaho

3. Arizona

4. Oregon

5. Utah

6. Washington

7. Oklahoma

8. New Mexico

9. Colorado

10. Mississippi

See the full list here.

What If I Don’t Live in New Jersey or Connecticut?

Don’t feel all is lost for your kid if you live in Mississippi rather than Maryland. SmartAsset’s list is based on the state as a whole. The quality of education at an individual school system, a school or even a classroom can be an outlier.

And even if your child’s school is less than stellar, you can supplement their education with lessons from a tutor, visits to the library or trips to museums and national parks.

There are also tons of free or low-cost resources available online. PBS Parents offers free educational activities and games for younger children. ABC Mouse offers similar learning tools at a cost of $7.95 per month — but they currently have a promotion for one free month.

For older students, Quizlet provides free study tools for a variety of subject matter. Sparknotes can help high school students finally figure out Shakespeare — and other subjects like biology, history and math.

In the event that your kid would rather veg out in front of the TV after a long day at school, there are programs and specials on channels like PBS, The History Channel, The Discovery Channel and National Geographic that can be both entertaining and educational. Though I might steer them away from shows like “Ancient Aliens” or “Naked and Afraid.”

Your Turn: Has the quality of local education determined where you live?

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She is a product of New Jersey public schools.