The Best and Worst School Systems: Where Does Your State Rank?

A new report looks at how school systems rank across the country, and the results may surprise you.
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The quality of my children's schools is always on my mind. Are they safe? Are my kids getting enough one-on-one attention? Are they being challenged?

Now, with back-to-school season baring down on us (already?!), personal-finance website WalletHub has compiled its list of 2016's States with the Best & Worst School Systems. For the rankings, analysts compared the quality of education in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, based on 17 key metrics including safety, bullying incidences, SAT scores, and dropout rate.

If you're a Massachusetts resident, congratulations! Your schools ranked at the top of WalletHub's list, followed by New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, and Wisconsin, which rounded out the top five.

On the flip side, the worst schools in America can be found in Louisiana, New Mexico, Alaska, Arizona, and D.C., according to the report.

Some key findings from the analysis are:

  • Iowa boasts the lowest dropout rate, while D.C. has the highest.
  • Students in Massachusetts have the highest math and reading test scores. D.C. students have the lowest.
  • Illinois' students having bragging rights when it comes to scoring the highest on their SATs, but sadly, D.C. still comes in last place in this category.
  • Vermont schools boast the lowest student-to-teacher ratio, while California, a densely populated state, has the highest.

The category that stood out the most to me in this report was safety. Given the prevalence of school shootings and bullying, my kids' safety is a big concern each day when I put them on the school bus. Wisconsin schools came out on top here, while Arkansas was the least safe. Interestingly, D.C. had the lowest incidences of bullying, while Idaho had the highest. So at least D.C. schools have something going for them!

I would say the takeaway of this report is not that you should move to a new state if your child's school didn't rank well. Instead, it's about holding schools accountable and finding ways to help them improve. Because the quality of education is important. According to previous analysis, people who attain higher levels of education earn more money in their careers. I'd venture to suggest that better education equates to a brighter future in countless ways, from giving kids higher self-esteem, to a lower likelihood they'll end up in jail, or on drugs.

Here's hoping WalletHub's findings lead to improvements in school systems where educators and parents didn't like their results.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.

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