Education matters more now than ever before, according to findings from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The rapid rate of modern advancements in technology continues to erase low-skilled jobs, and the children who receive poor education today will suffer the socioeconomic consequences tomorrow.
For more than 76 million students enrolled in schools throughout the U.S., education extends beyond learning – it represents employment opportunities, financial stability, and economic independence. But which states are preparing the next generation of leaders for success, and which states are trailing behind?
Intelligent.com drew upon key metrics related to performance, safety, community, investment, class size, and attendance for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Read on to find out how your state stacks up.
|State||Academic Performance Rank||Safety Rank||Community Rank||Academic Investment Rank||Class Size and Attendence Rank||Overall Rank|
|District of Columbia||38||13||1||31||4||17|
The Best and the Worst
|Top 5||Bottom 5|
|Academic Performance||1. Massachusetts
2. New Jersey
51. New Mexico
|Safety||1. Rhode Island
2. New Jersey
4. West Virginia
|47. New Mexico
|Community||1. District of Columbia
5. New Hampshire
48. West Virginia
|Academic Investment||1. Pennsylvania
48. South Carolina
|Class Size and Attendance||1. Alabama
4. District of Columbia
|47. New Mexico
50. West Virginia
|SAT Scores||1. Minnesota
3. North Dakota
4. Iowa (tie)
4. Kansas (tie)
49. West Virginia
51. District of Columbia
|ACT Scores||1. Connecticut
3. New Hampshire
4. New York
|46. North Carolina (tie)
46. Alabama (tie)
50. South Carolina
|College Enrollment||1. Rhode Island
2. District of Columbia
5. New York
49. New Mexico
|Bachelor’s Degree||1. District of Columbia
51. West Virginia
|High School Graduation Rate||1. Iowa
2. New Jersey
50. District of Columbia
51. New Mexico
|Daily Attendance||1. New York
4. New Jersey
5. New Hampshire
51. New Mexico
Garden State Takes Top Honors
New Jersey boasts end-to-end educational excellence, with the third highest preschool enrollment in the nation and second highest high school graduation rate. New Jersey residents are also among the most educated in the U.S., with the 6th highest density of bachelor’s degree recipients and the 9th highest density of advanced degree recipients. It should come as no surprise, then, that the state ranked within the top ten overall for academic performance, safety, community, and academic investment.
Students in the Garden State enjoy a high degree of personalized attention from teachers, with approximately twelve students enrolled in public school per public school teacher. New Jersey public schools saw an average daily attendance of 98.01% throughout the 2017 – 2018 school year, trailing behind only New York, Michigan, and Utah.
New Jersey is home to some of the best schools and universities in the nation. A 2016 ranking by Newsweek of America’s Top High Schools placed nine New Jersey high schools in the top 25, more than any other state. Princeton University of Princeton, New Jersey ranked first in U.S. News’ 2019 Best Colleges Rankings, with Rutgers University of New Brunswick, New Jersey placing within the Top 20 for public universities in the same report.
- Graduation Rate: 2nd Highest
- NAEP Scores: 2nd Highest
- AP Scores 3 or Above: 2nd Highest
- SAT Participation: 12th Highest
- ACT Composite: 13th Highest
- School Shootings per Resident: Lowest
- Preschool Enrollment (3-4 years): 3rd Highest
- Residents with Bachelor’s Degree: 6th Highest
- Residents with Advanced Degree: 8th Highest
- College Enrollment (18-24 years): 9th Highest
- Expenditure per Student Enrolled: 3rd Highest
- Revenue per Student Enrolled: 7th Highest
- Average Daily Attendance: 4th Highest
- Students per Teacher: 4th Lowest
New Mexico Ranks Bottom 6 in All Categories, 51st Overall
New Mexico ranks 44th in academic investment, 45th in community, 47th in both safety and class size and attendance, and dead last in academic performance – all culminating to make New Mexico the worst state ranked by education.
New Mexico has the lowest average daily attendance among public school students at 85%, one of only three states with an average attendance below 90% (along with Maine at 88% and Iowa at 88.5%). New Mexico’s graduation rate is also the lowest in the United States among public school students at 71%.
Students in New Mexico suffer from poor performance on standardized tests, ranking second lowest on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and third lowest in Advanced Placement (AP) test scores. According to the Educator’s School Safety Network, New Mexico featured the 10th highest number of violent threats and the 10th highest number of violent incidents at public schools in the United States.
Families and school districts in New Mexico have taken action to counteract these statistics, successfully suing the New Mexico Public Education Department in 2018’s Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico. District court judge Sarah Singleton ruled that New Mexico has failed to provide its students with a variety of college and career preparedness programs, including:
- quality preschool
- extended learning opportunities
- culturally and linguistically relevant education
- dual language programs
- small class sizes
- sufficient funding for teacher recruitment, retention, and training
- Graduation Rate: 1st Lowest
- NAEP Scores: 2nd Lowest
- AP Scores 3 or Above: 3rd Lowest
- SAT Participation: 19th Lowest
- ACT Composite: 11th Lowest
- Threats of Violence at School: 10th Highest
- Acts of Violence at School: 10th Highest
- School Shootings per Resident: 15th Highest
- Preschool Enrollment (3-4 years): 17th Lowest
- Residents with Bachelor’s Degree: 13th Lowest
- Average Teacher’s Salary: 3rd Lowest
- College Enrollment (18-24 years): 3rd Lowest
- Expenditure per Student Enrolled: 15th Lowest
- Revenue per Student Enrolled: 14th Lowest
- Average Daily Attendance: Lowest
American Students Rank Below International Average in Math
The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests 15-year-old students from all over the world in reading, math, and science. According to the most recent results, the United States ranks 39th in math, 23rd in reading, and 25th in science out of 73 surveyed countries.
On the other hand, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS) provides data on the math and science achievement of U.S. fourth- and eighth-graders compared to students in other countries. The United States fares slightly better in TIMMS than PISA: among fourth graders, the U.S. ranked 13th out of 48 in math and 9th out of 48 in science. For eighth graders, the U.S. ranked 9th out of 37 in math and 10th out of 37 in science.
It’s easy to hyperbolize the performance of American students against the national average, like this widely-circulated clip from HBO’s The Newsroom does. However, as this analysis from the Brookings Institute explains, many of the U.S.’s scores are statistically indistinguishable from many similarly-performing countries. For example, while the U.S. finished 24th in reading on the PISA, only 14 countries scored significantly higher — 13 systems scored about the same and 42 scored lower.
Cost of U.S. Tuition Rising, College Enrollment Falling
According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, college enrollment in the United States fell by over a quarter million students in the past year alone. This downward trend has been present for quite some time now: college enrollment fell 1.5% between 2016 and 2017, 1.3% between 2017 and 2018, and 1.4% between 2018 and 2019.
Critics are quick to point to rising tuition as a contributing factor. Forbes magazine reports that the price of college tuition has increased nearly eight times faster than wages between the 1980s and now. According to CNBC, typical tuition for the 1987-1988 school year was $15,160 for private institutions and $3,190 for public ones. For the 2017-2018 school year, those numbers rose to $34,740 for private colleges and $9,970 for public ones. Today, more than 44 million students owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt in the U.S. alone.
Correlation does not always indicate causation. While a 2017 study from BYU Economics found that decreasing the cost of attendance boosted enrollment at community colleges, it’s worth noting that these findings may not necessarily apply to four-year universities. However, even if higher tuition does not pose a statistically significant threat to total college enrollment, it does present a variety of social ramifications. The Research in Higher Education journal reports that increases in tuition decrease racial and ethnic diversity in colleges and universities, even in spite of financial aid offsets.
Two-Thirds of U.S. Educators Believe American Society Doesn’t Value Teachers
The 2017 Educator Quality of Life Survey found that 61% of teachers described their work as “often” or “always” stressful, and more than half of respondents reported feeling less enthusiasm for teaching now than they did at the beginning of their careers. Over 26% of teachers surveyed reported being bullied, harassed, or threatened at work in the last twelve months, with students perpetrating the bullying in half of those incidents. These ramifications take their toll on teachers, even in their personal lives — respondents reported sleeping an average of 6.6 hours per night, with 48% sleeping six hours or less nightly.
Despite these statistics, 90% of U.S. teachers in the TALIS survey reported feeling satisfaction in their job. However, only 36% believe that American society values the teaching profession. From a financial perspective, they’re not wrong — teachers are paid 21.4% less than similarly educated and experienced professionals, according to the Economic Policy Institute. The National Education Association also found that the average teacher salary in the United States dipped by 4.5% over the last decade.
States with the Highest Average Annual Salary of Public School Teachers, 2017 – 2018:
New York (9)
- Average Salary: $84,227
- Value of $1 in NY: $0.87
- Adjusted Salary: $73,277.49
- Average Salary: $80,680
- Value of $1 in CA: $0.87
- Adjusted Salary: $70,191.60
- Average Salary: $80,357
- Value of $1 in MA: $0.93
- Adjusted Salary: $74,73
U.S. Teachers Lead World Peers in Instructional Time, Trail in Effective Training
United States teachers reported working more hours per week than any other education system surveyed, according to the 2018 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS). American educators averaged 28 instructional hours per week, representing over 60% of their total working hours. In total, American educators reported working approximately 46 hours each week, more than educators in every other country surveyed except Chile. Those numbers go up for novice teachers, who work about 5 hours more per week than experienced educators.
Learning is a continuous process for American educators, with more than 95% of teachers in the United States participating in professional development activities over the last twelve months. Despite this, U.S. teachers reported the second-lowest relationship between self-efficacy in classroom management and classroom management training of any country surveyed, behind Malta. Teachers in the U.S. require more relevant and effective training, with 20% reporting need for professional development in technology for teaching and 24% reporting need for professional development for teaching students with special needs.
United States teachers navigate a diverse and intricate set of educational challenges:
- Over 50% teach in classes where over 10% of students have special needs
- Over 40% work in schools where over 30% of students are economically disadvantaged
- Over 25% teach in classes where over 10% of students have first languages different from the language of instruction
Methodology for Rankings
Intelligent.com evaluated a variety of key metrics related to performance, safety, community, investment, class size, and attendance to develop our ranking. Below you can find links to our sources for more information, as well as the weight assigned to each data set.
Academic Performance: 50%
- Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate
- NAEP Scores
- Share of Students Enrolled in AP Classes [Total AP Students / 11th and 12th Grade Enrollment]
- Number of AP Exams
- AP Scores 3 or Above
- ACT Participation Rate
- ACT Mean Composite Score
- SAT Participation Rate
- SAT Mean Total Score
- School Shootings per Resident [# K-12 School Shootings / State Population]
- Threats of Violence per 1,000 Students
- Incidents of Violence per 1,000 Students
- Preschool Enrollment
- College Enrollment
- AP School Density [Population by State / Total AP Schools by State]
- Residents with High School Degrees
- Residents with Bachelor’s Degrees
- Residents with Advanced Degrees
Academic Investment: 10%
- Value of $1 by State
- Average Salaries of Public School Teachers
- Public School Revenue per Student in Enrollment
- Public School Revenue per Student in Attendance
- Public School Expenditures per Student in Enrollment
- Public School Expenditures per Student in Attendance
Class Size and Attendance: 5%
- Public School Average Daily Attendance [Public School Average Daily Attendance / Public School Enrollment]
- Students Enrolled per Teachers in Public Schools
- Students in Average Daily Attendance per Teacher in Public Schools