Survey: Massachusetts has best, safest schools

Survey: Massachusetts has best, safest schools

(District of Columbia) For a second year, schools in Massachusetts have been judged to have the highest quality in the nation, while also recognized as being the safest, according to a survey using 21 indicators.

Meanwhile, school in New Mexico were found to be the least effective and those in Louisiana are the most unsafe.

The survey, overseen by a panel of university academics, was released Monday by WalletHub, a D.C.-based credit score web service.

Points were awarded for graduation and dropout rates, math scores among fourth and eighth graders as well as rates of illegal drug use and disciplinary records. But the architects of the survey said they also took into account school funding, class sizes and teacher credentials.

Here are some of the findings on school quality:

  • Iowa, New Jersey and Alabama had the lowest dropout rates; while the District of Columbia, New Mexico and Nevada had the highest;
  • Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Hampshire had the highest math scores; D.C., Alabama and New Mexico had the lowest; and
  • The best student-teacher ratio can be found in Vermont, North Dakota and New Jersey; while the highest is in California, Utah and Arizona.

Some of the findings on school safety include:

  • Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee reported the highest rates of injury and threats among students; Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and North Carolina had the lowest; and
  • Delaware, Rhode Island and North Carolina had the lowest incidents of bullying; while Idaho, Nebraska and West Virginia had the highest.

While there are many public policy makers that link school performance with funding, the survey suggests otherwise. The public school system in D.C., Louisiana and West Virginia were in the bottom in the survey rankings, but each is also among the highest spending.

“The variation in per-pupil spending does not explain the variation in school quality,” said Jan Furman, assistant professor of education at Seton Hall University and a member of the oversight panel.

“A prime example of this is the former Abbott district in New Jersey, which saw large increases in per pupil spending but did not see significant increases in student achievement,” she said in a statement.

The matrix for scoring states allowed for 60 points to be awarded under the school quality section and a total of 40 points for safety measures.

Dropout rates and math test scores were each worth 6 points, while graduation rates were worth 3 points. States with schools on the U.S. News & World Report’s Top 700 list also received 3 points.

The highest points, 8, in safety section went to states with low numbers of high school students saying they could not attend class because of potential violence either coming to or leaving school.