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10 Best & Worst States for Education -- Is Yours on the List?

little girl writing at schoolWhen you're settling down and starting a family, a lot of issues come to mind. Are you financially stable? Is the area you live in safe? What's the medical system like? And another one you need to add to that list: education. Lucky for us, the Opportunity Index state rankings for 2014 were just released, and we can see state-by-state how all 50 measure up on the education front.

Measure of America and Opportunity Nation, both organizations that monitor and report on the nation's issues, joined forces to create the Opportunity Index. They broke it down into jobs and economy, community life, and, of course, education. And within that educational block, three main categories went into ranking each state: number of kids enrolled in preschool, percent of high school freshmen who complete school in four years, and how many residents have earned an associate degree or higher.

And where the states ended up may surprise you.

We've included the 10 best (in order of best to worse), and 10 worst (in order of better to worst) in the list below. Take a look:

Are you surprised to see the state ranked lowest?


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11. Best -- Vermont

The best state is the Green Mountain State. Vermont ranks tops, with an education index of 64.66 (that's out of 100) and has improved year over year. Currently, its crowning statistic is that 93 percent of its freshmen graduate high school in four years.

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22. Best -- Connecticut

While this state may rank fifth overall in the Opportunity Index, it scores second in its education. In fact, that's a huge jump -- it improved by more than 10 points since 2013 and now we see that 64 percent of its 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in preschools (compared to 61.7 percent last year).

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33. Best -- New Jersey

The state has been eighth overall for the past three years, but its educational rank holds steady at third. About 63.1 percent of kids in New Jersey attend preschool, and on top of that, 87 percent of kids finish high school in four years. Those are some proud stats!

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44. Best -- Massachusetts

While Massachusetts is strongest in its community score, its educational one is holding steady at 63.44, just a little over one point below first-place Vermont. Its strong focus on education and schooling also means that there are very few young people who are not in school and not working -- only 9.3 percent, in fact.

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55. Best -- District of Columbia

OK, it's not a state, but Washington, DC's educational ranking means that the nation's capitol is intent on schooling its young citizens. And most of all, they stress secondary schooling: just about 56 percent of high school students have gone on to get an Associate Degree or higher.

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66. Best -- Nebraska

Since last year, Nebraska has made some major improvements. In 2014, 93 percent of its high school freshmen graduated on time, and that's a 10 percent jump from last year!

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77. Best -- New Hampshire

In a population of just over 1.3 million, New Hampshire has an education ranking of 60.9 overall. And its economic state also helps contribute to education. Just about 62 percent of households spend less than 30 percent of their household income on housing costs, which, in return, leaves more to spend on schooling.

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88. Best -- Minnesota

Last year, Minnesota ranked second overall. This time, it's sixth. And while it's dropped in other areas, its educational rank has held steady. School is still going strong and 88 percent of high school kids finish in the allotted four years and 43.8 percent go on to get, at least, an Associate Degree.

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99. Best -- Wisconsin

Wisconsin in the 13th best state, but its educational rank is solidly in the top 10. And its best statistic? Get this: 92 percent of its high school kids finish school in four years. That's one of the best in the entire nation.

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1010. Best -- Maryland

For the first time in four years, Maryland has cracked the top 10. And while its educational rank is good, it's what comes after that's also impressive. In 2014, the state had an unemployment rate of just 5.3 percent (a whole one percent lower than last year).

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1110. Worst -- Arkansas

And now we're off to the bottom 10. Starting the countdown is Arkansas, which has an education score of just 43.6 (which is more than 20 points below first place Vermont).

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129. Worst -- Arizona

While Arizona's educational indicator is the lowest of all its categories, its economic state is also questionable. Almost 19 percent of the population is below the poverty line, which is 3 percent higher than the national average.

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138. Worst -- South Carolina

South Carolina's low educational ranking is in part due to its slump since last year. For example, in the past 12 months, the number of kids enrolled in preschool dropped by a whole 2 percent.

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147. Worst -- Georgia

While the educational ranking is pretty solidly average (except for their high school completion rates -- just 70 percent), the report also shows that 17.8 percent of youth are neither enrolled in school nor working.

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156. Worst -- Alabama

For its population of 4.8 million, Alabama's educational system is not that hot. The state's median household income is almost $10,000 less than the national median, which can be linked to the amount of students who go on to college (just 30.7 percent).

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165. Worst -- New Mexico

New Mexico's overall rank is 46th, and so is its educational rank. And listen to this little tidbit: only 60.69 percent of households in the state have high-speed Internet access. Think that makes studying at home tougher? You bet.

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174. Worst -- Louisiana

Louisiana's educational rank is the lowest of all its categories (it's at 41.9), and while the schooling system is not tops, it also means that 17.4 percent of its youth aged 16 to 24 are neither in school nor working.

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183. Worst -- West Virginia

West Virginia ranks 43rd overall, but its educational rank is low, mostly because less than a quarter of residents have gone on to get any kind of degree. Wondering what the national average is? It's 37 percent.

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192. Worst -- Mississippi

With an educational rank of 39.9, Mississippi took the biggest hit when it came time to evaluating their high school completion numbers. Just 60 percent of its high school freshmen finish their schooling in four years. That's 21 percent below the national average!


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