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Your Guide To The States With The Best & Worst Schools

by Korey Lane

Having kids is a life-changing decision. And it isn't exactly an easy task. Regardless of whether or not you have children biologically, the choices you make while raising your children can have a huge impact on the future — both yours personally, and for society in general. Daunting as that may sound, perhaps one of the biggest judgement calls a parent has to make is where to send their little ones to school. Especially when some of the best schools aren't nearby. In fact, a comprehensive list of states with the best schools shows that kids in some regions of the country are seriously being left behind, while their neighbors are light years ahead, relatively speaking.

As all parents know, there are many factors that go into ensuring a child's education is up to par. Nevertheless, the fact remains that, with more money comes more privileges, like a good education. As can be seen by the latest rankings, this fact remains true. The states with the highest scores are also, for the most part, the richest states — and vice versa.

As the Trump administration, led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, seeks to restructure United States public education via more funding for charter schools, the states with the best schools are likely to change. However, that doesn't mean that these statistics aren't worthwhile. U.S. News and World Report, which releases a "Best States" list every year using data "based on McKinsey & Company’s Leading States Index," has taken the issue of education seriously. Looking at both Pre K-12 public schools, as well as higher education, researchers have come up with a fairly definitive list of all 50 states' quality of education.

So, where does your state land on the list? Check it out, below:

The Northeast Comes Out On Top

Perhaps unsurprisingly, states closer to the East Coast ranked somewhat higher than those elsewhere. Leading the pack are Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Maryland. However, not everything is as it seems.

For starters, the overall rankings are based on both Pre K-12 schools and higher education. So, while Massachusetts may be number one overall, it's only number 20 in higher education, and third in K-12.

The South Doesn't Contend Too Well

As it turns out, the lowest ranked states are all located in the southern and southwestern part of the country. However, it's worth noting that both New Mexico and Nevada do considerably well with their higher education, though their Pre K-12 rankings are the two worst on the list.

Of course, as all parents of schoolchildren know, sometimes all it takes for a school to be great is one dedicated teacher. If your child has a great teacher, it can make a world of difference in their overall education. So, if you live in one of the lower-ranked states, don't get down. These are averages, and there are definitely good schools everywhere.

The Outliers

As stated above, the overall rankings are based on averaging the higher education and lower education scores. Sometimes, a state will perform extremely well in one category, but because they don't do so well in the other, their overall score is significantly lower.

Florida, for example, has the best higher education ranking in the United States, but has some of the worst Pre K-12 scores. Pennsylvania, on the other hand, has the worst-ranked higher education, but does pretty well with its Pre K-12 schools.

How Were These Rankings Decided?

Per U.S. News and World Report,

[States were] ranked on percentages of children enrolled in preschool and on 10 basic criteria for the quality of preschools, including teacher training, class size and teacher-to-student ratios. They were compared in national testing of eighth-graders in math and reading, in rates of graduation from high school and readiness for college.

Of course, these methods aren't foolproof, and just because one state is ranked higher doesn't mean it's students are automatically better or smarter than students in a lower-ranked state. So much of what makes an education good are the people involved, so hopefully, parents can rest a bit easier in that knowledge. Nevertheless, these rankings help show that, as unfortunate as it is, good education is a privilege, and where you live matters.

Check out the full list of states with the best schools here.