Education by State

Sep 2017
5,469
6,537
Massachusetts
I'm a big believer that policy choices should be made not based on abstract principles (what you'd like to think would work), but rather based on real-world outcomes (what the evidence suggests is actually working). Given the way our states act as laboratories for democracy, a good approach is to compare outcomes at the state level, to see what's working and what isn't.

Towards that end, I thought I'd share some data based on the most recent 8th grade NAEP tests for math and reading. I'm using the 8th grade scores because they're the farthest along where the numbers don't get distorted by a significant drop-out rate (e.g., if one state has a 1% drop-out rate by 12th grade and another has a 10% rate, then comparing 12th-grade scores would essentially compare the top 99% of one group to the top 90% of another, which obviously is a misleading comparison).

Anyway, here's the average of those two scores for each state, best to worst:

Massachusetts 287.5
New Hampshire 284
New Jersey 283.5
Minnesota 281.5
Vermont 280.5
Washington 280.5

Indiana 280
Virginia 279
Wyoming 279
Connecticut 278.5
Nebraska 278.5
Wisconsin 278.5

Colorado 278
Ohio 278
Pennsylvania 278
Utah 278
Idaho 277
Iowa 277

Maine 276.5
Montana 276.5
North Dakota 276.5
South Dakota 276.5
Kansas 276

Illinois 274.5
Maryland 274
Oregon 274

Georgia 273.5
Missouri 273.5
Florida 273

New York 273
Arizona 272.5
Michigan 272.5
North Carolina 272.5
Kentucky 271.5

Rhode Island 271.5
Texas 271

Delaware 270.5
Tennessee 270.5
California 270
Hawaii 269

Oklahoma 268
Alaska 267.5

Nevada 267.5
South Carolina 267.5
Arkansas 267
West Virginia 266
Mississippi 263.5
Alabama 263

New Mexico 262.5
Louisiana 262

There's a pretty big gap between the best and the worst. If you dig into the numbers you can get more detail -- for example, the percent scoring at or above "proficient" in the best states (49%) is approximately twice what it is in the worst (24%).

Anyway, what I'd suggest is that an attempt should be made to figure out what the best states on that list, like Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Vermont are doing differently, politically, than the worst, Louisiana, New Mexico, Alabama, Mississippi, and West Virginia, which may be influencing their very different educational outcomes.
 
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Mar 2012
59,991
41,456
New Hampshire
Well several things actually. New England overall has very little minorities or those that dont speak English. NH and VT are the whitest states in the union. So thats one issue. Another is college educated parents. Top schools have parents with higher levels of education so they make more money. A third is income. These states have some of the highest incomes. I would also add in specifically to New England that we have the largest number of charter, private and boarding schools than anywhere else in the US and those scores are counted as well. BTW, why the red/blue in the states?
 
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Jan 2016
57,388
54,210
Colorado
Well several things actually. New England overall has very little minorities or those that dont speak English. NH and VT are the whitest states in the union. So thats one issue. Another is college educated parents. Top schools have parents with higher levels of education so they make more money. A third is income. These states have some of the highest incomes. I would also add in specifically to New England that we have the largest number of charter, private and boarding schools than anywhere else in the US and those scores are counted as well. BTW, why the red/blue in the states?
Heh, I noticed that Illinois is neither red nor blue! What's up with that? Are they being expelled from the Union??
 
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Mar 2012
59,991
41,456
New Hampshire
Another interesting link about test scores.

-Alaska, Louisiana, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Vermont saw statistically significant declines on two or more tests, while Florida was the only state that made significant gains on multiple tests.
-Though Massachusetts landed on top, these results probably don’t have education officials popping champagne. Yes, Bay State students outperformed the nation as a whole, but they didn’t exactly outperform their own predecessors.


https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2018/04/10/national-naep-2017-scores/
 
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Mar 2012
59,991
41,456
New Hampshire
Heh, I noticed that Illinois is neither red nor blue! What's up with that? Are they being expelled from the Union??
I always find it odd that NH gets a blue color when it couldnt be more red at the state and local level.
 
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Mar 2018
276
79
TN
This has nothing to do with 8th grade test scores but TN is giving free college to ALL. And there were no mandated taxes or anything.
It is amazing what you can accomplish when you sit there and think and not just tell people they WILL do something or else.
I like bragging about that lol
 
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Mar 2012
59,991
41,456
New Hampshire
This has nothing to do with 8th grade test scores but TN is giving free college to ALL. And there were no mandated taxes or anything.
It is amazing what you can accomplish when you sit there and think and not just tell people they WILL do something or else.
I like bragging about that lol
Cost sometimes doesnt always correlate to great scores. Alaska spends one of the highest on education but doesnt produce fantastic results. Conversely Indiana and Utah spend very little and do pretty well.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2015/06/02/the-states-that-spend-the-most-and-the-least-on-education-in-one-map/?utm_term=.bdd05efce0e2
 
Mar 2018
276
79
TN
Cost sometimes doesnt always correlate to great scores. Alaska spends one of the highest on education but doesnt produce fantastic results. Conversely Indiana and Utah spend very little and do pretty well.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2015/06/02/the-states-that-spend-the-most-and-the-least-on-education-in-one-map/?utm_term=.bdd05efce0e2
Well, that post had nothing to do with scores but i agree. But i like how EVERYONE, even a 50 year old, has an option. A VERY affordable one.
 
Sep 2017
5,469
6,537
Massachusetts
Well several things actually. New England overall has very little minorities or those that dont speak English.
Massachusetts is right at the top of that list, when it comes to educational outcomes, and yet I think Massachusetts makes that "very little minorities" claim unsatisfying for explaining success. Along many spectra, Massachusetts could be said to have unusually high numbers of minorities. For example, the United States is a majority-Protestant nation, and Massachusetts, between its unusually large population of Catholics, Jews, Hindus, atheists, etc., may have the highest proportional population of religious minorities in the whole nation. America is also majority-native-born, and yet Massachusetts has the eighth-highest percentage consisting of the foreign-born minority of any state in the union. Massachusetts is also exactly median when it comes to percentage of white residents, so in terms of racial minorities, it's unremarkable in either direction. It's also not the case that Massachusetts does well because it doesn't have many foreign-speaking people in its schools.

https://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/acs-22.pdf

22.0% of people in Massachusetts had a language other than English spoken at home, compared to 20.8% nationally. That's eleventh-highest in the nation, so it has an unusually high minority population in those terms, too.

Now, at the other end of the spectrum, consider West Virginia, which is in the bottom five for education. West Virginia has a MUCH smaller proportional minority population than Massachusetts, whether you're speaking in terms of religion, race, nativity, or language. It's not even close --for example, just 2.3% of West Virginians speak a language other than English at home, making it only about a tenth as lingually diverse as Massachusetts.

NH and VT are the whitest states in the union.
Vermont is, but at least as of the last Census (2010), West Virginia is actually whiter than New Hampshire, and Iowa is very nearly as white (91.3% versus 92.3% in New Hampshire). And, again, with Massachusetts leading the pack for education, yet being wholly unremarkable in terms of whiteness (24th out of 50 in 2010, 26th out of 50 using 2016 estimates), that doesn't wind up being a very satisfying explanation.

Another is college educated parents.
I agree that's a big factor -- for example, Massachusetts leads the nation when it comes to both percent of population with undergrad degrees, and percent with advanced degrees. That creates a culture that emphasizes education for the next generation, which will mean stronger academic performance. But then it becomes kind of a chicken-and-egg matter, and we wind up asking what the top states did a generation ago to make their students more college-ready and college-oriented, to allow them to go on to be college-educated.

A third is income.
I'm sure income factors in a lot, but there's definitely a lot more than that going on, since incomes don't correlate particularly closely with education outcomes. For example, Massachusetts and New Hampshire are top-10 for median family income, but hardly tops. Alaska beats them both (3rd-highest income, versus 6th and 7th, respectively for MA and NH, respectively), and yet it has some of the worst education in the whole nation. That suggests to me, again, that there's a chicken-and-egg question (is it that good income tends to produce good education, or that good education tends to produce good income). It appears that when high incomes are brought about not through successful brain work, but rather through the dumb luck of being born on top of a bunch of high-priced natural resources, as in Alaska, that high income doesn't necessarily translate into good educations.

I would also add in specifically to New England that we have the largest number of charter, private and boarding schools than anywhere else in the US and those scores are counted as well.

New England is nothing special when it comes to private school:

https://www.citylab.com/equity/2014/08/where-private-school-enrollment-is-highest-and-lowest-across-the-us/375993/

That has Northern New England in the second-lowest category for private schools, and Massachusetts and Connecticut in the middle group. Meanwhile private school use is strongest in Louisiana, which is an absolute educational train-wreck, coming in dead last for NAEP results.

As for charter school participation:

https://ballotpedia.org/Charter_school_statistics_for_all_50_states

Again, Louisiana is in the top three among states for Charter schools, yet dead last for results. Massachusetts relies less on charter schools than the country as a whole (4.28% of public school students are in charters in Massachusetts, versus 5.85% nationally). New Hampshire has even fewer, at 1.76% -- less than a third the national average. Maine has even fewer, at 0.84% (about one-seventh the national average). Vermont has no charter schools at all:

Series Primer: FAQs About N.H.'s Charter Schools | New Hampshire Public Radio

None of the best states for education are among top states for charter schools.

BTW, why the red/blue in the states?
It was meant to align with how each state voted in the 2016 election, to get us thinking more broadly about whether we should be expecting liberal or conservative policies to produce top results for education.
 
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Sep 2017
5,469
6,537
Massachusetts
Heh, I noticed that Illinois is neither red nor blue! What's up with that? Are they being expelled from the Union??
My bad -- the editing system here doesn't actually show the color, but instead shows the code, so I overlooked it.
 
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