Who's On Top? Color-Coded Maps Rank States' Education Performance

A new report from the Department of Education puts all the latest educational data at your fingertips.

We all hear horror stories about the poor academic quality of America's schools, but a new study shows that different states rate very differently on measures like test scores and graduation rates. For example, students in Massachusetts and Minnesota are two to three times more likely than their peers in West Virginia and Mississippi to pass national eighth-grade standardized tests, according to the U.S. Department of Education's new State of the States in Education report.

The report maps five sets of data: fourth- and eighth-grade scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress; on-time high school graduation rates; college-attendance rates; three-year associate degree graduation rates; and six-year college graduation rates.

States colored green are the top 10, yellow states are middle performers, and red states are the lowest-performing. For those interested in how the data breaks down according to racial demographics and other subcategories, some data sets also have separate maps according to those indicators. Each map is followed by a detailed list giving the exact rankings and corresponding percentages.

A quick scan of the maps makes it easy to see which states reliably perform well whatever the metric (Massachusetts, for one), and which are struggling across the board (like California, the nation's most populous state). California's 71 percent graduation rate puts it squarely in the bottom 10, but that number looks downright rosy compared to other red states: Mississippi clocks in at 62 percent, while Nevada pulls up the rear with 56.3 percent of students graduating from high school.

One interesting disparity takes place in Mississippi: Despite the state's poor graduation rate, the state has the highest college attendance rate among students who do graduate: 77.4 percent. Mississippi students rank in the middle of the pack in terms of the number of college students who graduate within six years, with 51.3 percent. College graduation rate is a rare category in which California performed well, while Arizona sits at the bottom of the pack with a meager 27.6 percent.

The Department of Education have said they want to make it easier for people to see that "state and local governments have a major impact on student outcomes, and the rigor of state standards" have a larger impact on educational performance than most people realize. The ease of navigating a set of color-coded maps is a useful step in that direction.


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