The pandemic transformed American life in many ways, but arguably none quite as severely as education. In spring 2020, many schools across the country closed their doors to in-person learning as scientists and politicians grappled with the dangers of COVID-19. Globally, more than 1 billion students were affected by school closures. The effects of those closures were felt not just by students, but by parents and educators too.
Parents were forced to deal with tough choices: send their children to school or start an at-home learning program. Educators had to manage the transition from teaching in a classroom to teaching on a computer. Many students transitioned from a pre-pandemic routine of going to class, seeing friends, and talking with teachers to a new reality of learning exclusively through a computer or mobile device.
Before the upheaval started, school districts already faced scrutiny over the quality of education they provided. Data from the Nation’s Report Card showed that math and reading proficiencies were stagnant leading up to the pandemic. This data showed that math proficiencies leveled off for eighth-graders at around 33% and increased slightly to 41% among fourth-graders in 2019. Reading proficiency peaked in 2017 but declined in the next round of testing. In 2019, both grade levels were at or below 35% proficiency.
Yet while the national data indicates that many students struggle with math and reading, state-level statistics show that certain states have found a way to buck the national trend. To determine the states with the best public schools, researchers at HireAHelper used data from the U.S. Department of Education and the Census Bureau to generate a composite score based 5 factors: reading scores, math scores, Total state spending per student, Pupil toteacher ratio and graduation rate.
In many cases, the states with the best test scores are also the states that spend the most money per student, but this trend is inconsistent. New York and Alaska stand out as states that have significantly above-average funding per student, but report below-average academic results. On the other hand, Idaho and Utah have the lowest public education spending per student of all 50 states, but achieve significantly above-average scores on the NAEP.
When taking all these factors into account, Virginia was issued a composite score of 84.8, which ranked 11th best in public schools
For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on HireAHelper’s website: