2022's States with the Best & Worst School Systems (2022)

Securing a child’s academic success begins with choosing the right schools. But how can parents decide where to enroll their kids? Because children develop and learn at different rates, the ideal answer to that question varies based on each student’s needs. Those needs have become even more specialized in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused significant learning loss for many students.

Based on how schools have handled the COVID-19 pandemic, some parents may decide to move their children to different schools in the future. Unfortunately, most parents can’t afford to place their children in exclusive, private or preparatory schools that give their students greater individual attention. For the majority of U.S. families, public education is the only option. But the quality of public school systems varies widely from state to state and is often a question of funding. Public elementary and secondary education money usually flows from three sources: the federal, state and local governments. According to the U.S. Department of Education, states contribute nearly as much as local governments, while the federal government supplies the smallest share. Some researchers have found that more resources — or taxes paid by residents — typically result in better school-system performance.

Unlike other research that focuses primarily on academic outcomes or school finance, WalletHub’s analysis takes a more comprehensive approach. It accounts for performance, funding, safety, class size and instructor credentials. To determine the top-performing school systems in America, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 32 key metrics.

Table of Contents

Main FindingsAsk the ExpertsMethodology

Main Findings

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Public School Ranking by State

Overall RankStateTotal ScoreQualitySafety
1Massachusetts72.7911
2Connecticut66.2229
3New Jersey64.05321
4Virginia61.7944
5Maryland60.6776
6Delaware60.05102
7New Hampshire59.19811
8North Dakota58.42628
9Nebraska58.1298
10Wisconsin58.03531
11Vermont56.71167
12Maine56.09253
13Utah55.531216
14Florida55.351515
15Minnesota55.211136
16Rhode Island55.172010
17New York54.861320
18Pennsylvania54.321426
19Iowa54.251919
20Wyoming54.231722
21Kentucky53.942217
22Indiana53.522613
23Illinois53.231829
24Colorado52.622324
25Montana51.552138
26South Dakota51.192437
27Texas49.363314
28Tennessee49.182746
29North Carolina49.023032
30District of Columbia47.652849
31Washington47.56365
32Arkansas47.223235
33Kansas47.203141
34Ohio47.104012
35Missouri46.322950
36Georgia46.073827
37Idaho45.223444
38Michigan44.123942
39Nevada44.013547
40California43.173748
41Hawaii42.424133
42Alabama39.814523
43Mississippi38.654345
44Oregon38.074439
45Oklahoma38.014625
46South Carolina37.314251
47West Virginia37.184718
48Arizona35.114834
49Louisiana34.094940
50Alaska33.055030
51New Mexico26.075143

Note: With the exception of “Total Score,” all of the columns in the table above depict the relative rank of that state, where a rank of 1 represents the best conditions for that metric category.

2022's States with the Best & Worst School Systems (1)

Dropout Rate

Lowest

  • 1. Alabama
  • 2. Iowa
  • 3. West Virginia
  • T-4. Kentucky
  • T-4. New Jersey

2022's States with the Best & Worst School Systems (2)

Highest

  • 47. Louisiana
  • 48. Oregon
  • T-49. Arizona
  • T-49. New Mexico
  • T-49. District of Columbia

Best State vs. Worst State: 4x Difference

Alabama vs. District of Columbia

2022's States with the Best & Worst School Systems (3)

Math Test Scores

Highest

  • 1. Massachusetts
  • 2. Minnesota
  • 3. New Jersey
  • 4. Virginia
  • 5. Wyoming

2022's States with the Best & Worst School Systems (4)

Lowest

  • 47. District of Columbia
  • T-48. West Virginia
  • T-48. Louisiana
  • 50. New Mexico
  • 51. Alabama
(Video) 2022’s States with the Best & Worst School Systems

2022's States with the Best & Worst School Systems (5)

Reading Test Scores

Highest

  • 1. Massachusetts
  • 2. New Jersey
  • 3. Connecticut
  • 4. New Hampshire
  • T-5. Utah
  • T-5. Colorado

2022's States with the Best & Worst School Systems (6)

2022's States with the Best & Worst School Systems (7)

Median SAT Score

Highest

(Video) 2022’s States with the Best & Worst Community College Systems

  • 1. Minnesota
  • T-2. Utah
  • T-2. North Dakota
  • T-2. Iowa
  • T-2. Nebraska

2022's States with the Best & Worst School Systems (8)

Lowest

  • T-47. New Mexico
  • T-47. Idaho
  • T-49. Delaware
  • T-49. Florida
  • 51. District of Columbia

2022's States with the Best & Worst School Systems (9)

Median ACT Score

Highest

  • T-1. Connecticut
  • T-1. Massachusetts
  • T-1. District of Columbia
  • T-4. New Hampshire
  • T-4. California

2022's States with the Best & Worst School Systems (10)

Lowest

  • T-47. Nevada
  • T-47. Hawaii
  • T-47. South Carolina
  • T-47. Louisiana
  • T-47. Mississippi

Best State vs. Worst State: 2x Difference

Connecticut vs. Nevada

2022's States with the Best & Worst School Systems (11)

Pupil-Teacher Ratio

Highest

  • 1. Vermont
  • 2. Maine
  • 3. New Hampshire
  • 4. New Jersey
  • 5. Connecticut

2022's States with the Best & Worst School Systems (12)

Lowest

(Video) 2021’s States with the Best & Worst School Systems

  • 47. Oregon
  • 48. Nevada
  • 49. Arizona
  • 50. California
  • 51. Utah

Best State vs. Worst State: 2x Difference

Vermont vs. Utah

2022's States with the Best & Worst School Systems (13)

% of Threatened/Injured High School Students

2022's States with the Best & Worst School Systems (14)

Highest

  • 41. District of Columbia
  • 42. Mississippi
  • T-43. South Carolina
  • T-43. California
  • T-43. Louisiana

Best State vs. Worst State: 3x Difference

Massachusetts vs. Louisiana

2022's States with the Best & Worst School Systems (15)

Bullying Incidence Rate

Lowest

  • 1. District of Columbia
  • 2. Delaware
  • 3. Georgia
  • 4. Florida
  • 5. Nevada

2022's States with the Best & Worst School Systems (16)

Highest

(Video) All 50 STATES in AMERICA Ranked WORST to BEST

  • 44. West Virginia
  • 45. Iowa
  • 46. Kentucky
  • 47. New Hampshire
  • 48. Alaska

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Note: Spending Ranking refers to “Total Current Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Day Schools per Student” (Highest Amount = Rank 1)

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Ask the Experts

Giving students a good education is crucial for the future of the country. That responsibility falls to parents, educators and leaders alike. To expand the discussion, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:

  1. Does variation in per-pupil spending explain most of the variation in school quality?
  2. What can state and local policymakers do to improve their school systems without raising taxes?
  3. In setting a child up for success, how important is the quality of the school relative to other factors (family, neighborhood, etc.)?
  4. In evaluating the best and worst school systems, what are the top five indicators?

Ask the Experts

Tom Ramming
Ed.D. – Clinical Associate Professor & LIFTS Coordinator, Emeritus – University at Buffalo, Graduate School of Education
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Christine Kiracofe
Ed. D. – Professor & Director of the Higher Education Ph.D. Program – Purdue University
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Richard Bauscher
Ed.D. – Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Leadership and Counseling, College of Education, Health and Human Sciences – University of Idaho
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kecia hayes
Ph.D. – Senior Professorial Lecturer, School of Education – American University
Read More

Elizabeth Gil
Ph.D. – Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership, Administration and Policy Division, Graduate School of Education – Fordham University
Read More

Methodology

In order to determine the best and worst states for public-school education, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across two key dimensions, “Quality” and “Safety.”

We evaluated those dimensions using 32 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the highest quality of public K–12 education.

Finally, we determined each state and the District’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.

Quality – Total Points: 80

  • Presence of Public Schools in “Top 700 Best U.S. Schools”: Full Weight (~3.64 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the number of public schools in U.S. News & World Report’s “Top 700 Best U.S. Schools” ranking adjusted by the number of public schools for each state in the U.S. News & World Report sample.
  • Blue Ribbon Schools per Capita: Full Weight (~3.64 Points)
    Note: The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.
  • High School Graduation Rate Among Low-Income Students: Full Weight (~3.64 Points)
  • Projected High School Graduation Rate Increase Between 2021-2022 and 2032-2033 School Years: Full Weight (~3.64 Points)
  • Dropout Rate: Double Weight (~7.27 Points)
  • Math Test Scores: Double Weight (~7.27 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the scores earned by fourth and eighth graders.
  • Reading Test Scores: Double Weight (~7.27 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the scores earned by fourth and eighth graders.
  • Share of 2021 High School Class Scoring “3” or Higher on Advanced Placement Exams: Double Weight (~7.27 Points)
  • Median SAT Score: Double Weight (~7.27 Points)
  • Median ACT Score: Double Weight (~7.27 Points)
  • Share of High School Graduates Who Completed ACT and/or SAT: Double Weight (~7.27 Points)
    Note: For this metric, the percentage sum may be larger than 100 percent, considering some students completed both standardized tests. However, no data specifying the number of students who did so are available.
  • Division of SAT Results by Percentile: Full Weight (~3.64 Points)
  • Division of ACT Results by Percentile: Full Weight (~3.64 Points)
  • Pupil-Teacher Ratio: Full Weight (~3.64 Points)
  • Share of Licensed/Certified Public K–12 Teachers: Full Weight (~3.64 Points)

Safety – Total Points: 20

  • Existence of Digital Learning Plan: Full Weight (~1.11 Points)
    Note: This binary metric measures whether a state has guidelines in place for comprehensive strategies for schools deploying technology, trainings for teachers, and instructional resources for building remote lesson plans.
  • State Statute on Out of School Access to Instructional Materials: Full Weight (~1.11 Points)
    Note: This binary metric measures whether a state is ensuring digital content and instructional materials are available outside of the classroom.
  • State Guidance on Accessible Technologies: Full Weight (~1.11 Points)
    Note: This binary metric measures whether a state has accessibility assurance to acceptable technologies for providing instructional content.
  • Share of Threatened/Injured High School Students: Double Weight (~2.22 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the share of public school students in grades 9 to 12 who reported being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property.
  • Share of High School Students Not Attending School Due to Safety Concerns: Full Weight (~1.11 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the share of public school students in grades 9 to 12 who reported not attending school because they felt unsafe at or on their way to or from school.
  • Share of Children Whose Parents Agree Their Children Go to Safe Schools: Full Weight (~1.11 Points)
    Note: Share of children aged 6-17 whose parents definitely agree that their children are safe at school.
  • Share of High School Students with Access to Illegal Drugs: Full Weight (~1.11 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the share of public school students in grades 9 to 12 who reported that illegal drugs were made available to them on school property.
  • Share of High School Students Participating in Violence: Full Weight (~1.11 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the share of public school students in grades 9 to 12 who reported involvement in a physical fight at least once during the previous 12 months on school property.
  • Share of Armed High School Students: Full Weight (~1.11 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the share of public school students in grades 9 to 12 who reported carrying a weapon on school property.
  • Number of School Shootings (2000-present (March, 2022)): Full Weight (~1.11 Points)
  • Presence of Adopted and Enacted Laws Regulating Mandatory School Resource Officers: Full Weight (~1.11 Points)
  • Bullying Incidence Rate: Double Weight (~2.22 Points)
  • Disciplinary Incidence Rate: Full Weight (~1.11 Points)
    Note: Rate measured per 100,000 students.
  • Youth Incarceration Rate: Full Weight (~1.11 Points)
    Note: Rate measured per 100,000 population aged 20 and younger.
  • School Safety Plan Requirement: Full Weight (~1.11 Points)
    Note: This binary metric measures whether a state requires or not a school safety plan.
  • School Safety Audit Requirement: Half Weight (~0.56 Points)
    Note: This binary metric measures whether a state requires or not a school safety audit.
  • Safety Grade of Roads Around School: Half Weight (~0.56 Points)
    Note: School safety scores and rankings are based on unsafe driving events detected by the Zendrive platform within school areas.


Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Education, National Conference of State Legislatures, National Center for Education Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative, Education Commission of the States, U.S. News & World Report, College Board, Ballotpedia, ACT, State Educational Technology Directors Association, Civil Rights Data Collection and Zendrive.

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FAQs

What state has the worst school system in the United States? ›

Massachusetts came in at No. 1 overall, with top quality and safety as well. Meanwhile, New Mexico came in as the state with the worst public school system, according to WalletHub.

What US state has the best school system? ›

1. Massachusetts. Massachusetts has the best public school system in the U.S. 48.8% of Massachusetts's eligible schools ranked in the top 25% of high school rankings, a total of 167 schools. Massachusetts has the highest math and reading test scores in the U.S. and the second-highest median ACT score of 25.1.

Which state is ranked the lowest in education? ›

West Virginia is the least educated U.S. state, with an overall score of 23.65. West Virginia ranks last for Educational Attainment with the lowest shares of people with associate degrees or some college experience and those with Bachelor's degrees, at 20.6%.

What state is ranked 50 in education? ›

Mississippi

What is the best state to raise a family? ›

Massachusetts topped the report's list of the best states for families, in particular receiving high marks for education, affordability and health and safety. Following the Bay State were New York, Vermont, Minnesota and Nebraska.

Which state has the best elementary public schools? ›

School Systems Index
Overall RankStateSchool Quality
1Massachusetts3
2New Jersey2
3Connecticut4
4New York1
46 more rows
Jan 12, 2022

What state is the best to live in? ›

Massachusetts tops the list: 10 best and worst states to live in this year, per WalletHub. Massachusetts tops this year list, moving up from the No. 2 spot last year. New Mexico, Alaska and several southern states ranked the lowest.

Which state has the hardest standardized test? ›

New York tops list of states with most difficult tests.

What is the smartest state? ›

The smartest states in the U.S. are located in the Northeast, Midwest, and West.
...
Here are the 10 states with the highest average IQ:
  • New Hampshire - 103.2.
  • Massachusetts - 103.1.
  • Minnesota - 102.9.
  • Vermont - 102.2.
  • North Dakota - 101.7.
  • Wyoming - 101.7.
  • Utah - 101.5.
  • Washington - 101.5.

What state is number one in education? ›

New Jersey is the top state for education. It's followed by Massachusetts, Florida, Washington and Colorado to round out the top five. Six of the 10 states with the best education systems also rank among the top 10 Best States overall. Learn more about the Best States for education below.

What is the best school district in the US? ›

Top 100 School Districts in America in 2019
RankSchool DistrictState
1San Mateo County Office Of EducationCalifornia
2San Francisco County Office Of EducationCalifornia
3Santa Barbara County Office Of EducationCalifornia
4Los Angeles UnifiedCalifornia
77 more rows
Dec 27, 2020

What is the least educated city in America? ›

When it comes to the bottom of the list, Visalia, California, is the least educated city in the U.S. Brownsville, Texas, was No. 149, followed by McAllen, Texas, Bakersfield, California and Modesto, California.

What is the least developed state in USA? ›

Poverty rate: 24.1%

Mississippi is the poorest state in the US, with 695,915 people living below the poverty line.

What state has the highest high school dropout rate? ›

The states with the highest percentage of students not graduating on time were New Mexico (28.9%) and Oregon (23.3%). On-time graduation rates are lowest in Wheeler County, Oregon, where 74% of children fail to complete high school on time.

Who is number 1 in education in the world? ›

the United States

What state has the best high schools? ›

Massachusetts tops all other states with the highest percentage of top-ranked public high schools.

Why is California ranked so low in education? ›

THE REASON: California is spending less on education because of policy choices it has made. The state directs fewer resources to education than do other states, and its chosen tax sources are volatile, making education funding vulnerable during economic downturns.

What is the best state to live in financially? ›

Top States to Live in
Overall RankStateEconomy
1Massachusetts10
2New Jersey39
3New York37
4Idaho9
46 more rows
Aug 15, 2022

What is the most affordable state to live in? ›

Mississippi is the cheapest state to live in in the United States. Overall, costs in the state are 17% lower than the national average. Housing costs in Mississippi are the lowest in the nation.

What is safest U.S. state? ›

New Jersey

What are the top 10 least educated states? ›

Here's how every state ranked in most to least educated:
  • Massachusetts.
  • Connecticut.
  • Maryland.
  • New Jersey.
  • Virginia.
  • Vermont.
  • New York.
  • New Hampshire.
Feb 17, 2022

What is the smartest state? ›

The smartest states in the U.S. are located in the Northeast, Midwest, and West.
...
Here are the 10 states with the highest average IQ:
  • New Hampshire - 103.2.
  • Massachusetts - 103.1.
  • Minnesota - 102.9.
  • Vermont - 102.2.
  • North Dakota - 101.7.
  • Wyoming - 101.7.
  • Utah - 101.5.
  • Washington - 101.5.

What state has the best K 12 schools? ›

New Jersey ranks first in the nation for this subcategory, as well as in the overall education category. Massachusetts places second, followed by Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont. Learn more about the Best States for primary education below.

What state has the best high schools? ›

Massachusetts tops all other states with the highest percentage of top-ranked public high schools.

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4. WalletHub: New Jersey makes it into the top 3 of best school systems for 2022
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