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The 20 Worst Education Systems by State


Education is an essential institution worldwide. It is a dominant factor in determining how developed a nation is, decreases poverty, boosts the economy, and enhances peace. In the U.S, the education quality and educational attainment level of an individual gets strongly related to median incomes. However, not all U.S. states are equal in terms of education. While each state has great schools, some states have higher learning institutions and special school districts that stand out from the rest. Some of the states are also more educated than others. Are you curious whether your state is among the worst in terms of offering quality education? Here is a complete guide on the 20 worst educations by the state in 2022.

20. South Dakota

School budgets play a significant role in determining academic success. The public school system in South Dakota is poorly funded. The state has a low school quality ranking of 26. The state only allocates 2.6% of the annual budget to education, which is well below the 3.3% average expenditure across the other states. It spends around $11,133 per pupil annually. With this, just 11.2% of students in the state attend districts with higher than the national average per pupil expenditure. According to Edweek, South Dakota has a high school graduation rate of 83.9% which although not the lowest. It still has room for improvement.

19. Indiana

Next on the list of worst education by the states is Indiana. The state allocates $11,342 per pupil expenditure annually on education, lower than most states. Also, this is below the average national expenditure of $12,526. While the state has a high school graduation rate of 86.8%, above the national average, only 25.6% of adults in Indiana attain a bachelor's degree. This ranks ninth lowest among other states.

18. Missouri

Fairness in school funding is an essential metric in measuring the quality of education in a state. The difference between the best-funded schools and the lowest in Missouri is $3,345 per pupil annually. Just 11.8% of students stay in districts with above-average per-pupil education expenditure. This leaves the majority of public school students in Missouri at a disadvantage. Only 28.5% of adults in the state have a bachelor's degree, the 18th lowest among other states.

17. Texas

According to 24/7 WALLst, Texas has an overall score of 45.8, educational attainment of 39 and school quality ranking of 37. One of the shortcomings of education in Texas is low funding for public school students. The state's education expenditure is only about $8,485 per student annually. This is one of the lowest spendings per pupil of any state and around $4,000 less than the nation's average. The state has one of the lowest rates of adults with at least a bachelor's degree, at 28.9%. But despite the disadvantages, Texas has one of the highest percentages of high schoolers graduating with a diploma at 89.1%. This is higher than the 84.1% national graduation rate.

16. South Carolina

South Carolina has one of the worst school systems in the United States. According to WalletHub, this state lags behind most others in the country on several key metrics, including dropout rates and test scores. While the state allocates around 3.9% of the tax to education, more than the 3.3% U.S. average, South Carolina is poor, spending $11,175 per pupil annually. This is relatively lesser than the average per-person spending across the states. Only 27.2% of adults in South Carolina have at least a bachelor's degree, which is the lower rank.

15. Alaska

According to U.S.News, Alaska has one of the worst educations. One of the main measures of the overall quality of the education system is the high school graduation rate, and Alaska has one of the lowest rates. 76.2% of high school students graduate with a diploma, significantly lower than the 84.1% of high school students countrywide. The state has the second highest annual public school spending of $20,640 per pupil. However, much of the cash is due to the unique challenges in the state, including climate and size. Therefore, the state's educational budget cannot be compared to other states.

14. Idaho

Idaho has one of the worst public school systems in the nation. An excellent early childhood education program has a great impact on the cognitive development of a child. In Idaho, only 30.6% of 3 to 4 years old get enrolled in Pre-K, the lowest percentage of any state. This is seen in the outcomes of Idaho's underperforming public schools. It is also one of the few states lacking a publicly funded pre-K system. Additionally, only 79.7% of Idaho students graduate with a diploma, which is below the average high school graduation rate of 84.1% in the U.S. 27.6% of adults in Idaho have a bachelor's degree, which is the fifteenth lowest in the country.

13. Arizona

Kids raised speaking English as a second language face extra academic challenges in American public schools. Arizona has 79.4% of the kids raised by parents speaking fluent English, one of the lowest percentages. This may explain the state's low graduation rate, with only 79.5% of high school students graduating with diplomas. This is relatively low compared to the average of 84.1% countrywide. Arizona spends just $8,131 per pupil annually on its public schools, which is the second lowest among all states. Only 28.9% of adults have at least a bachelor's degree. The low graduation rates indicate that Arizona must invest more in the education system.

12. Oregon

Oregon has a worse public school system than most states due to subpar student achievement and low funding. The state spends around $11,510 per pupil on education yearly, approximately $1,000 less than an average national expenditure. According to KGW8, lesser than 3 per 4 high schoolers in Oregon graduate with a diploma ranking at third lowest. This is significantly below the 84.1% average high school graduation in the U.S. While the outcomes are not directly linked to spending, high investment in public education can go a long way in improving the results of public school students in the state.

11. Michigan

This is one of the states with a lower bachelor's degree attainment rate than the country's average. Only 28.5% of Michigan's residents have completed college, lower than the national average of 32.6% and sixteen lowest among other states. Additionally, the state has only a 79.7% high school graduation rate, well below the U.S. average rate of 84.1%.

10. Tennessee

Tennessee has one of the lowest percentages of 3–4-year-old kids enrolled in Pre-K. This is around ten percent below the comparable average U.S. enrollment figure. More so, just 74.9% of eligible kids in Tennessee enroll in kindergarten, which is lower than the 78.4% U.S. average. Only 26.2% of adults in the state have a bachelor's degree, which is the tenth lowest among other states. The educational mess in Tennessee has been blamed on poor leadership in the last century. Some of the blame has been attributed to the failure of parents to be involved actively in their kids' education.

9. New Mexico

New Mexico is one of the worst states in the U.S. regarding education, mainly accredited to education metrics. The state's education system is one of the worst in the country. According to EdWeek Research Center, the state's public schools rankings are the worst in the country. Less than 71% of the New Mexican students graduate from high school, which is moderately lower than the country average of 85.8%.

8. Nevada

Nevada has the second lowest high school graduation rate at 73.6%. Scrambling for the top position in the worst states in education ranking, the state is underfunding its public schools. The state spends $8,802 per pupil annually, the fifth lowest. Also, eighth graders have a NAEP proficiency of 27.4% in reading and 26.2% in math, significantly lower than most states. The poor educational background results are reflected in the low percentage of adults that have attained at least a bachelor's degree. At 23.5%, this ranks as the sixth lowest.

7. Oklahoma

Next on the list of the worst education by the states in 2022 is Oklahoma. According to 24/7 WALLst, the state has an overall score of 36.0 out of 100. Oklahoma lags behind most states in match proficiency, with only 22.9% of eighth graders and 36.7% of fourth graders proficient in math which is below the nation's average. Also, the state has an 81.6% high school graduation rate, the 15th lowest in the ranks. The public schools have average spending of $9227 per pupil, which is seventy lowest. Only 25.2% of adults have attained a bachelor's degree, the 8th lowest in the ranking.

6. Kentucky

Kentucky has one of the lowest high school graduation rates at 87.16%. The state's annual public school spending per pupil is $10,945, which is lower than the national average. Also, around 18.5% of Kentucky residents stay below the poverty line. This is one of the highest poverty rates among all states. This is among the states where the gap between the poor 4th and 8th graders and those from financially stable families continues to grow. Only 23.4% of adults in Kentucky have attained a bachelor's degree.

5. Alabama

Alabama is the fifth-least educated state, with a total score of 32.29. The state's education attainment rank is 45, while the quality of education ranks 41. Alabama has among the worst-performing public school systems in the country. Just 26.1% of fourth and 17.2% of eighth graders are proficient in math. The high school graduation rate in the state is 87.1% which is lower than the country's average, and public schools spend around $10,142 per pupil annually, the fourteenth lowest. Approximately 22% of Alabama adults have a bachelor's degree or higher. This is lower than the 25% countrywide average.

4. Arkansas

Arkansas has one of the worst educations in the state in 2022, with an overall score of 30.06. The state ranks 47th for educational attainment. The quality of education has slightly improved at 31. At 22.4%, Arkansas has the third-lowest share of bachelor's degree holders. This said, a family's financial stability could enhance a kid's success in education. Only 47.8% of kids in Arkansas live in families earning at least double the poverty income level. This is among the smallest shares in the country. Also, students raised by parents with a post-secondary degree have a higher chance of academic success. Only 39.3% of kids in the state have at least one parent with a post-secondary degree, which is less than the 49.6% national average.

3. Louisiana

Louisiana comes in the third-place spot for the least educated states. It scored 25.72 and ranks 44th for quality education and 48th for educational attainment. Louisiana has the 4th lowest share of high school and bachelor's degree holders. It also has the fourth-lowest share of graduate and second-lowest share of associate degree holders. There might be a leeway given to Louisiana due to education disruption by passing hurricanes, but that doesn't take away the fact that it ranks third lowest by education.

2. Mississippi

Mississippi is the second-least educated state, with an overall score of 25.18. It ranks 44th for education quality and 49th for educational attainment. Mississippi has the 3rd lowest percentage of high school diploma holders at 84.5%, and the second-lowest share of bachelor's holders. It also has the fifth-lowest share of individuals with college experience, associate degrees, and graduate degree holders.

1. West Virginia

West Virginia is the worst educated U.S. state, with an overall score of around 23.65. The state ranks last in educational attainment with the lowest shares of individuals with associate degrees and those with bachelor's degrees at 20.6%. West Virginia also features the fourth-lowest average university quality. The poor education can be attributed to the financially insecure families that are considerably disadvantaged academically. West Virginia is among the poorest states in the U.S. Only around 49.7% of kids in the state come from families earning at least double the poverty level income. Statistics show that fourth and eighth graders in west Virginia have a lesser probability of being proficient in reading and math than those in most states.

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Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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