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WalletHub Study Examines Quality, Safety Of Schools
kid study

With more than half of educators reporting significant learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the personal-finance website WalletHub on July 26 released its report on 2021’s States with the Best & Worst School Systems, as well as accompanying videos and expert commentary.

In order to determine the best school systems in America, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 32 key measures of quality and safety. The data set ranges from pupil-teacher ratio and dropout rate to median standardized-test scores. For the full report, visit:


Quality & Safety of Schools in California (1=Best; 25=Avg.):

•              43rd – Math Test Scores

•              39th – Reading Test Scores

•              50th – Pupil-Teacher Ratio

•              35th – Median SAT Score

•              15th – Median ACT Score

•              30th – Percentage of Licensed/Certified Public K–12 Teachers

•              31st – Dropout Rate

•              32nd – Bullying Incidence Rate

•              44th – Percentage of Threatened/Injured High School Students

•              1st – Existence of Digital Learning Plan


Expert Commentary

 Does variation in per pupil spending explain most of the variation in school quality?

“Absolutely. From both a quantitative and qualitative lens, more money leads to greater opportunities and greater achievement. If you compare the outcomes of two affluent communities, you may not see much difference. But the amount of resources (i.e., books, training, experiences, materials, etc.) is considerably more in affluent districts. One of the greatest predictors of learning is the training of the teacher. Affluent areas pay well, with good benefits, and have smaller class sizes on average. That means teachers can assess more accurately and teach to the individual needs of their students.”

Christopher Meidl, Ph.D. – Associate Professor, Duquesne University


What are the biggest educational challenges that have emerged during the pandemic, and which were the best strategies proposed in order to overcome them?

“The recent pandemic required many schools to move quickly to remote or hybrid learning in 2020. This challenged public schools to design new approaches and to shift their existing educational practices online. Teachers quickly redeveloped their curriculum by creating digital content that would primarily be delivered in a digital format. The need to train teachers in this new modality and provide supports for teachers during this time as well as finding ways to provide access to both teachers and students more equitably meant that equity in opportunity emerged as another significant challenge.”

Teresa Coffman, Ph.D. – Professor, University of Mary Washington


In evaluating the best and worst school systems, what are the top five indicators?

“As a school and district leader, I found that a natural way of looking at your education system is through the C’s of community, creativity, caring, connectivity, and competency. With such C’s find out how the school is the heart of the community. Ask questions such as, do they innovate and create programs that meet the aspirational needs of their learners? Do they create a culture of caring and a system of social-emotional supports for both student and adult learners? Do they have a system that develops and encourages continuous improvement with an all means all mindset?”

Frances Marie Gipson, Ph.D. – Clinical Associate Professor, Claremont Graduate University