Public School Rankings By State 2020

Finding the best public school is a priority for many families. A good education is important to these families, who may even choose where they purchase or rent housing in order to make sure their children are in the best school systems.

While there is no comprehensive way to measure what public schools are the best in the nation, there are a few surveys that look at data including high school graduation rates and college readiness to determine which states have the best schools.

WalletHub ranked each state’s public schools for “Quality” and “Safety” using 29 relevant metrics. Metrics included high school graduation rate among low-income students, math and reading scores, median SAT and ACT scores, pupil-teach ratio, the share of armed students, number of school shootings between 2000 and May 2019, bullying incidence rate, and more.

Below are the ten best states for teachers based on WalletHub's findings.

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., as well as the second-highest median ACT score of 25.1. Massachusetts also has one of the lowest bullying incidence rates in the country and considered to be one of the best states for teachers. Massachusetts is also the most educated state in the country.

2. New Jersey

New Jersey has the second-best public schools in the United States. New Jersey has the second-lowest dropout rate among states and the third-lowest pupil to teacher ratio. Additionally, students have the third-highest math test scores and the second-highest reading test scores in the nation. New Jersey ranks second for overall quality of schools and 11th for safety. The state spends about $21,866 per student on average. New Jersey is considered to be the second-best state for teachers as well, with the sixth-highest average salary of $69,917 per year.

3. Connecticut

Connecticut ranks third in the nation for public schools, ranking third for quality and 12th for safety. Connecticut students have the highest median ACT score in the country of 25.5 and have the fourth-highest reading test scores. Connecticut spends about $18,958 per student, one of the highest per-pupil spendings in the country. Connecticut is also one of the best states for teachers due to having small class sizes and some of the best-paid teachers in the U.S. with an average annual salary of $73,113.

4. Virginia

Virginia has the fourth-best public schools overall in the United States, ranking seventh for quality and second for safety. Virginia public schools were found to have the fourth-highest math test scores in the country. Virginia schools also have the fourth-lowest bullying incidence rate and have “no significant shortcomings” when assessed for safety from violence, bullying, harassment, and substance use.

5. Vermont

Vermont has the fifth-best public schools in the nation. Vermont ranks sixth for quality, having the fifth-best reading test scores and the lowest pupil to teacher ratio in the country, allowing for teachers to give extra attention to each student. The average teacher ratio in the U.S. is 16-to-1, while Vermont’s is 10.5-to-1. Vermont also ranks fourth for safety, tied for first with Massachusetts and Oklahoma for having the lowest percentage of threatened/injured high school students.

6. Minnesota

Minnesota ranks sixth overall for the best public schools. Minnesota ranks fourth for quality. Minnesota students have the second-highest math test scores in the U.S. and are tied with Wisconsin for having the highest median SAT score. Minnesota schools’ median SAT score is 1298. Despite this, there have been concerns over the state’s declining performance for reading and math scores over the last few years. Luckily, graduation rates have increased for all student groups in Minnesota public schools.

7. New Hampshire

New Hampshire has the seventh-best public schools in the United States, ranking ninth for quality and sixth for safety. New Hampshire schools have the third-highest reading test scores among states and the second-highest median ACT score of 25.1. Additionally, New Hampshire has the fifth-lowest pupil to teacher ratio of about 12-to-1.

8. Nebraska

Nebraska has the eighth-best public schools in the U.S., ranking 11th for quality and seventh for safety. Nebraska is one of the few states that require all of its students to take the ACT during their junior year, resulting in an average composite score of 20.1. Nebraska schools’ test scores haven’t moved much over recent years, which, despite battling poverty rates increasing across the state, is not a bad thing.

9. North Dakota

Ranking ninth for public schools is North Dakota, which ranks fifth for quality. North Dakota has the third-highest median SAT score of 1170. Additionally, North Dakota has the second-lowest pupil to teacher ratio in the U.S. of 11.7-to-1. North Dakota also ranks first for the best states for teachers. North Dakota does lack school safety, however, with a rank of 43.

10. Wyoming

Finishing the top ten list of best public schools by state is Wyoming. Wyoming ranks eighth for quality with the fifth-highest math test scores in the country. Wyoming’s average SAT composite score is 1070 and the average ACT composite score is 23, well above the national average of 20.8. Wyoming is ranked fourth for the best states for teachers, having a low pupil to teacher ratio, one of the best starting salaries for teachers, and one of the lowest staff turnover rates.

On the opposite end, the five states with the worst public schools are:

  1. New Mexico
  2. Louisiana
  3. Arizona
  4. Mississippi
  5. West Virginia

Public School Rankings By State 2020