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Public School Rankings By State

It is no secret that the public school system is struggling across the United States. Many homeschoolers in the US agree on the failing public education system as one of the main reasons they choose to homeschool. Yet, many wonder which states are the worst? That isn’t always an easy answer and takes some in-depth examination.

School System Rankings By State

Education Week provides public school rankings by state through an interactive map. The highest total grade given for a state is only a B+ given to Massachusetts. Sadly, the nation as a whole only receives a C score. Many wonder what ratings like these mean and what qualities do they measure? This particular map looks at chance for success, school finance, and K-12 achievement to come up with a letter grade but sadly, that isn’t easy to follow or understand.

USA News takes a closer look and examines the quality of education by state by rating each state on different public school achievements. This breakdown helps make it clearer as to where each state stands.

Quality of Education: Public School Rankings By State

In the table below, we have a few of those achievements listed to help us compare public schools in each state. States are ranked from 1st to 50th with 1st being the best and 50th being the worst.  

The United States



Readiness Rank


Scores Rank

NAEP Reading

Scores Rank

Alabama 45 50 46
Alaska 42 32 41
Arizona 48 26 34
Arkansas 47 44 45
California 38 41 44
Colorado 20 16 17
Connecticut 1 20 4
Delaware 10 34 36
Florida 14 42 32
Georgia 23 36 37
Hawaii 8 35 47
Idaho 5 23 13
Illinois 26 28 26
Indiana 15 10 15
Iowa 33 14 16
Kansas 44 21 27
Kentucky 35 39 19
Louisiana 40 49 48
Maine 17 18 14
Maryland 18 25 18
Massachusetts 2 1 2
Michigan 4 38 31
Minnesota 27 3 6
Mississippi 49 48 50
Missouri 30 31 24
Montana 24 9 7
Nebraska 32 13 10
Nevada 43 43 43
New Hampshire 3 2 1
New Jersey 6 4 5
New Mexico 50 47 49
New York 13 33 33
North Carolina 11 30 39
North Dakota 28 7 23
Ohio 31 17 28
Oklahoma 41 45 35
Oregon 36 27 20
Pennsylvania 16 24 12
Rhode Island 12 29 29
South Carolina 22 40 40
South Dakota 19 19 22
Tennessee 37 37 30
Texas 21 22 38
Utah 34 15 9
Vermont 7 5 3
Virginia 73 8 25
Washington 29 12 21
West Virginia 39 46 42
Wisconsin 25 6 8
Wyoming 46 11 11

College Readiness

One factor used in public school ratings is college readiness. College readiness is based on students meeting ACT and SAT benchmarks. According to USA News, the top ten worst states for college prep education are (number 1 being the worst)

  1. New Mexico
  2. Mississippi
  3. Arizona
  4. Arkansas
  5. Wyoming
  6. Alabama
  7. Kansas
  8. Nevada
  9. Alaska
  10. Oklahoma

NAEP Math and Reading Scores

The National Assessment of Educational Progress(NAEP) is a math and reading proficiency assessment given to public school children during their eighth-grade year. The U.S. Board of Education refers to these test as The Nation’s Report Card.

Based on the NAEP math assessment test scores, these are the lowest performing states in education for math (number 1 being the worst):

  1. Alabama
  2. Louisiana
  3. Mississippi
  4. New Mexico
  5. West Virginia
  6. Oklahoma
  7. Arkansas
  8. Nevada
  9. Florida
  10. California

Based on the NAEP reading assessment, these are the worst states for public education in reading (number 1 being the worst):

  1. Mississippi
  2. New Mexico
  3. Louisiana
  4. Hawaii
  5. Alabama
  6. Arkansas
  7. California
  8. Nevada
  9. West Virginia
  10. Alaska

Worst Public Schools by State

Looking at the individual school system rankings by state, we can see recurring states in all three lists. Which states are the worst overall? Taking the state rankings from all three factors into account we have identified the top ten worst states for public schools (number 1 being the worst).

Top 10 worst Public Schools by State

  1. Mississippi
  2. New Mexico
  3. Alabama
  4. Louisiana
  5. Arkansas
  6. Nevada
  7. West Virginia
  8. California
  9. Oklahoma
  10. Alaska

What can you do?

Homeschooling can help you tailor education to meet the needs of your child. With homeschooling, you can target the areas that your child may need extra help on. That ability is something that just isn’t possible for most public school teachers to do in the struggling public education system today.

Many families across the nation have already turned to homeschool, and more continue to make the transition. Reports have shown that homeschoolers tend to score better on standardized tests than their public school peers and continue on to college.

So how do you get started homeschooling? If you’ve done your research and have made up your mind, the first thing you need to do is make sure you comply with the specific homeschooling laws in your state. (Worry not, homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, there are just different requirements in every state).

Homeschooling using an online curriculum makes it easy to start your home instruction journey. The freedom and flexibility it provides allowing you to set your own schedule, choose your own lessons, keep records as you see fit, and teach according to your child’s learning style are what makes all the difference in your child’s learning success.

If homeschooling isn’t something that would work for your family, but you are still concerned about these school ratings by state then think about after-schooling or supplementing with an after-school program like Time4Learning and other educational games to give your child the extra boost they need to succeed in the future!


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