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

Suzee Skwiot | Oct 22, 2014 Parenting News
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?


Image © Virgo Productions/Corbis

  • 1. Best -- Vermont


    Image via mattsh/Flickr

    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.

  • 2. Best -- Connecticut


    Image via mytravelphotos/Flickr


    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).

  • 3. Best -- New Jersey


    Image via sis/Flickr

    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!

  • 4. Best -- Massachusetts


    Image via werkunz/Flickr

    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.

    More from The Stir: 10 Best & Worst States to Have a Baby: Is Yours on the List?

  • 5. Best -- District of Columbia


    Image via peterliuphoto/Flickr

    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.

  • 6. Best -- Nebraska


    Image via subconscience/Flickr

    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!

  • 7. Best -- New Hampshire


    Image via Jimmy Emerson, DVM/Flickr

    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.

  • 8. Best -- Minnesota


    Image via mulad/Flickr

    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.

    More from The Stir: 10 Best & Worst States to Raise a Girl: Is Yours on the List?

  • 9. Best -- Wisconsin


    Image via robbyb/Flickr

    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.

  • 10. Best -- Maryland


    Image via matthewhester/Flickr

    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).

  • 10. Worst -- Arkansas


    Image via thomashawk/Flickr

    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).

  • 9. Worst -- Arizona


    Image via stevewall/Flickr

    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.

    More from The Stir: 10 Best & Worst States for Raising Kids: Is Yours on the List?

  • 8. Worst -- South Carolina


    Image via TranceMist/Flickr

    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.

  • 7. Worst -- Georgia


    Image via kairokathy/Flickr

    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.

  • 6. Worst -- Alabama


    Image via Christa Lohman/Flickr

    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).

  • 5. Worst -- New Mexico


    Image via dennis_larson/Flickr

    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.

    More from The Stir: 17 Worst States for Working Moms: Is Yours on the List?

  • 4. Worst -- Louisiana


    Image via kenlund/Flickr

    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.

  • 3. Worst -- West Virginia


    Image via Noe Alfaro/Flickr

    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.

  • 2. Worst -- Mississippi


    Image via Tom Magliery/Flickr

    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!

  • 1. Worst -- Nevada


    Image via Thomas Hawk/Flickr

    Nevada's educational rank? Not so great (it's actually 27.6 total). And its worst offense? Just 32 percent of its 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in preschool. And when the national average is 47.6 percent, that's definitely not the greatest.


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