What is the goal of education? Some parents believe it is to prepare their children academically, perhaps for college or another aspiration. Others say it is to prepare them for work, and still other parents believe it’s to shape students into responsible citizens. But no matter what, most of us would agree that schools need to at least be teaching children basic principles of reading, writing, and arithmetic, as the adage goes.
By and large, the education system in the United States hasn’t earned a gold star recently, at least in the eyes of the public. Roughly 55% of respondents to a 2016 Gallup poll said they were completely or somewhat dissatisfied with K-12 education in America. Aside from a peak dissatisfaction rate in 2000, that’s on par with some of the highest levels of disapproval in the past 16 years. Another Gallup and PDK poll found that only 27% of parents believe that the current standards in their schools prepare their children well or extremely well for life after education.
Quality education? A national scorecard
Still, some schools perform better than others, especially since education is distilled into state and local jurisdictions. Some federal taxes go toward education grants and other projects, but a significant portion of education funding comes from state and local governments. State-by-state standards can also affect how students in one public school do compared to another.
The closest thing we get to a nationwide comparison of student performance is the NAEP tests, which stand for National Assessment of Educational Progress. These tests are given in a number of subjects, including math, reading and science, and students are assessed in grades 4, 8, and 12. To determine the best and worst states for education in the country, we ranked them according to their scores for reading assessment in eighth grade, but we also include the scores for math and science for those states as well.
Here are the best and worst states for education, according to their standardized scores. Do you live in one?