Back-to-School Report: The Nation’s Best School Systems

Back-to-school season is enough to create angst in any family, as kids bemoan the transition from free time to class time and parents scramble to buy all of the increasingly-expensive school supplies needed to give their children the best chance for academic success.

However, the seasonal stress isn’t necessarily limited to families who currently have school-age children.  For parents who have young kids or who are either planning to start a family or move in the near future, back-to-school advertising can serve as a reminder about the need to research school districts in order to identify the best possible learning environments for their children.

In order to help reduce that burden on families (and potentially save them money in the process), CardHub did a bit of research into the nation’s scholastic situation.  You can find the result of this research – lists of the best cities, states, and towns in a number of education-related categories – below.


Best Public Schools Best Test Scores
Best Remote Learning Opportunities Cities with the Most Invested in Your Child’s Future
Lowest Dropout Rates Most Learned Citizenry
Safest Schools Poverty Rates by Education Level
Biggest Bookworms Earning Rates by Education Level



Best Public Schools

The following cities have the most schools ranked in Top 200 nationally.

  1. New York, NY – (13)
  2. Houston, TX – (7)
  3. Los Angeles, CA – (6)
  4. Dallas, TX – (5)
  5. Miami, FL – (5)



Best Remote Learning Opportunities

The ability to learn online isn’t limited to higher education, as most states boast a number of public and private K-12 online school systems.  The following states offer the most options to choose from.

Top 5 States – Online Public Schools

  1. Florida – (37)
  2. California – (13)
  3. Oregon – (8)
  4. Washington – (6)
  5. Michigan – (5)

Top 5 States – Online Private Schools

  1. Georgia – (9)
  2. Florida – (6)
  3. California – (4)
  4. Oregon – (3)
  5. Washington – (3)



Lowest Dropout Rates

Children learn from their teachers, parents, and peers alike, and you don’t want your son or daughter to fall in with the wrong crowd and end up dropping out of school.  Instead, you want them to take cues from motivated friends who can help spur them to greatness.

  1. Texas
  2. Illinois
  3. Massachusetts
  4. Maryland
  5. Pennsylvania



Safest Schools

Schools are supposed to be safe havens no matter where they are, but as we’ve all seen, violence can penetrate the classroom or meet a student on the walk home.  The following major cities have the most attractive crime indices.

  1. San Diego, CA
  2. Los Angeles, CA
  3. New York, NY
  4. Riverside, CA
  5. Las Vegas, NV



Biggest Bookworms

Having educational resources nearby is integral to scholastic success, and the following cities boast the most libraries as well as the most active library patrons.

  1. Cleveland, OH
  2. Cincinnati, OH
  3. Chicago, IL
  4. Detroit, MI
  5. Denver, CO
  6. Kansas City, MO
  7. New York, NY
  8. Boston, MA
  9. St. Louis, MO
  10. Orlando, FL



Best Test Scores

The rise of standardized testing enables researches to compare student performance at different levels of their education.  The following states boast the highest test scores in Math, Science, Reading, and Writing.



Rank Grade 4 Grade 8
1 Massachusetts Massachusetts
2 New Hampshire Minnesota
3 Minnesota Vermont
4 Vermont New Jersey
5 New Jersey North Dakota


Rank Grade 4 Grade 8
1 Massachusetts Massachusetts
2 New Jersey Vermont
3 New Hampshire Montana
4 Vermont New Jersey
5 Montana New Hampshire


Rank Grade 4 Grade 8
1 New Hampshire North Dakota
2 Virginia New Hampshire
3 Massachusetts Vermont
4 Vermont Montana
5 Montana Massachusetts


Rank Grade 4 Grade 8
1 Connecticut New Jersey
2 Massachusetts Connecticut
3 New York Massachusetts
4 Delaware Vermont
5 North Carolina Colorado



Cities with the Most Invested in Your Child’s Future

The strength of a public school system is often the product of the local government’s economic well-being and resources.  The following cities and states devote the most money and man power to educating their citizenry.

Most Spent Per Student

  1. New York, NY – ($13,287)
  2. Washington, DC – ($8,822)
  3. Boston, MA – ($8,563)
  4. Baltimore, MD – ($8,457)
  5. Philadelphia, PA – ($8,194)

Lowest Pupil/Teacher Ratios

  1. North Dakota – (13.68)
  2. Missouri – (13.77)
  3. Pennsylvania – (13.8)
  4. Massachusetts – (13.9)
  5. West Virginia – (13.91)



Most Learned Citizenry

One can learn anywhere, including by example.  The following cities have the most highly educated citizens, who can promote positive habits among and lend words of wisdom to the next generation.

Highest Percentage of People (18-24) with Bachelor’s Degree or Higher
Madison, WI – (17.9%) Charlottesville, VA – (17.6%)
Ithaca, NY – (17.3%) Portland, ME – (17.3%)
Boulder, CO – (17.2%) Washington, DC – (17.2%)
Lebanon, NH – (17.1%) Bozeman, MT – (16.8%)
Ann Arbor, MI – (16.6%) Durham, NC – (17.5%)


Highest Percentage of People (25+) with Graduate or Professional Degree
Ithaca, NY – (29.1%) Lawrence, KS – (21.3%)
Ann Arbor, MI – (25.9%) Corvallis, OR – (21.3%)
Boulder, CO – (25.8%) Iowa City, IA – (21.0%)
Washington, DC – (22.9%) Durham, NC – (20.8%)
Charlottesville, VA – (21.5%) San Jose, CA – (19.9%)


Earning & Poverty Rates by Education Level

Higher education isn’t in everyone’s plans.  So, if your child is planning to curtail his or her education after high school, they may want to consider living in one of the following areas.

Lowest Poverty Rates Among People with Some High School Education

  1. Lexington Park, MD – (3.0%)
  2. Gettysburg, PA – (3.9%)
  3. Palm Coast, FL – (4.3%)
  4. Keene, NH – (4.5%)
  5. Ocean City, NJ – (4.8%)

Lowest Poverty Rates Among High School Graduates

  1. Manitowoc, WI – (4.2%)
  2. Ames, IA – (5.3%)
  3. Sheboygan, WI – (5.5%)
  4. Charlottesville, VA – (5.6%)
  5. Midland, TX – (5.7%)

Highest Median Earning Rates for High School Graduates

  1. Lexington Park, MD – ($40,110)
  2. Torrington, CT – ($39,539)
  3. Anchorage, AK – ($36,091)
  4. Mount Vernon, WA – ($35,491)
  5. Concord, NH – ($35, 439)

Highest Median Earning Rates for College Graduates

  1. San Jose, CA – ($71,451)
  2. Lexington Park, MD – ($66,086)
  3. Bridgeport, CT – ($65,889)
  4. Trenton, NJ – ($64,810)
  5. Washington, DC – ($63,704)


Sources & Methodology:  To compile this report, CardHub used publically available information from the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Center for Education Statistics, the Institute for Museum and Library Services,,,, and US News.


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