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Strong State Economies Translate to Stronger Public Education Systems

More evidence has arrived which proves that states with successful economies and functional governments happen to have significantly better education systems. Much of this can be attested to funding and simply finding a process and sticking to it.

In their latest Best States rankings, US News and World Report found that Massachusetts had the best education system in the country, followed by New Jersey, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Maryland.

A number of different metrics factored into their ranking formulation. US News ranked states' PreK-12 systems based on the "percentages of children enrolled in preschool and on 10 basic criteria for the quality of preschools, including teacher training, class size and teacher-to-student ratios." States were also "compared in national testing of eighth-graders in math and reading, in rates of graduation from high school and readiness for college."

In addition to a committed state investment in education, the top-ranking states like Massachusetts demonstrate a patience and steadfastness in following through with their education policy plans. "They'll tell you the biggest thing they've done is commit to a strategy and stick with it," says Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, according to the report.

Minnich asserts that when states stick with the strategies developed through a deliberative legislative process, it provides stability to the education system, and that stability translates into better, more thriving education communities.

These top-ranking states are also putting federals funds intended to strengthen early childhood education programs to use. According to Lauren Camera of US News, "[f]ederal efforts have so far been limited to $750 million in various rounds of competitive grants, but those dollars could be making an impact: For one, the funding is currently benefiting four of the top-10 education states, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland and Washington." It has translated into a larger early education enrollment rate, higher quality of education, and more money delegated per child. 

While funding and policy adherence seem to carry Massachusetts and other states among the top 10 states in overall education, there are still areas in which these states are falling behind. 

"Despite being the education darling of the country, the Bay State hasn't been able to overcome some significant academic achievement gaps between students of color and their white peers, or poor students and their wealthier peers – a problem plaguing many states across the country, including several that sit atop the Best States education rankings."

That's not all, the ranking of the higher education systems for many of these states is not on par with their PreK-12 systems. One of the reasons is the high cost of tuition for public universities and private colleges in these states. The higher education ranking factors in tuition and accumulated debt after graduation, which likely attributes to their middling status.

The rankings also revealed that "[o]nly four states that rank in the top 10 overall are also among the top 10 states with highest graduation rates." Massachusetts, number one in overall education, ranked 19th when it came to graduation rates. 

Clearly these top-ranked states have elements of their public education systems that need to be improved; however, they offer a sound blueprint that many other states could benefit from. 

See the complete rankings here.

Article by Navindra Persaud, Education World Contributor.

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