Unless one is destined for the ranks of wildly successful college dropouts like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, education remains the traditional route to professional and financial success for many Americans. Consider the median incomes for workers aged 25 and older in 2014. Those with a bachelor’s degree earned 65 percent more than those with only a high school diploma, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The data reveals that income potential grows — and chances of unemployment shrink — as one’s educational attainment improves.
And with school resuming, many parents will be seeking the best school districts to secure their children’s academic success. When comparing their options, however, parents should recognize that the amount of available public funding is by no means a determinant of a school system’s quality, as our findings demonstrate, though money is certainly helpful.
In addition, states that invest more dollars in education benefit not only their residents but also their economies. The Economic Policy Institute reported that income is higher in states where the workforce is well educated and thus more productive. With better earnings, workers in turn can contribute more taxes to beef up state budgets over the long run.
In light of back-to-school season, WalletHub compared the quality of education in the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia by analyzing 13 key metrics that range from student-teacher ratios to standardized-test scores to dropout rates. By shining the spotlight on top-performing school systems, we aim to encourage parents to help their children realize their maximum potential and to call the attention of lawmakers on the work that remains to be done to improve America’s schools.
North Carolina schools didn’t finish in the top five best or bottom five worst in any of the categories explored by WalletHub. As a whole, North Carolina’s schools finished in the middle of the pack at No. 21 overall. While the Tar Heel State was No. 6 among the country’s “Safety” category, it was No. 24 in the “School System Quality” category.
States with the best school systems, ranked in the top 10, were: 1-Massachusetts, 2-Colorado, 3-New Jersey, 4-Wisconsin, 5-Kentucky, 6-Vermont, 7-North Dakota, 8-Minnesota, 9-Connecticut and 10-Illinois.
Massachusetts was No. 1 in “Safety,” No. 1 in “Math Test Scores,” No. 1 in “Reading Test Scores” and No. 2 in “School System Quality”; Colorado was No. 1 in “School System Quality;” and Oklahoma, which was No. 33 overall, was No. 2 in “Safety.”
States with the worst school systems, ranked in the bottom 10, were: 42-New Mexico, 43-California, 44-West Virginia, 45-South Carolina, 46-Oregon, 47-Louisiana, 48-Arizona, 49-Nevada, 50-District of Columbia and 51-Alaska.
The state of Alaska was No. 51 in “School System Quality”; the District of Columbia was No. 51 in “Safety,” No. 51 in “Dropout Rates,” No. 51 in “reading Test Scores,” No. 51 in “Average SAT Scores” and No. 51 in “Math Test Scores.”
— Richie Bernardo is a personal finance writer at WalletHub. He graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism and a minor in business from the University of Missouri-Columbia.