NJ school system nation’s 2nd best
When it comes to the nation's best and worst school system's New Jersey is ranked second best overall, only to Massachusetts, according to a WalletHub study.
The in-depth report looked at 20 different metrics to compile the list, according to WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez.
"Those range from student-teacher ratio to the average SAT and ACT scores, high school drop out rate and even safety issues, like cyberbullying," said Gonzalez.
New Jersey has several positive factors that helped its school system rank so high, including a greater percentage of public schools, K-through-12, within the top 700 best U.S. schools on a yearly list compiled by U.S. News and World report, according to Gonzalez.
"New Jersey has about 10 percent of them, so that already really sets it apart. Most states would love to have about 5 percent. A lot of states have absolutely none. So, that already sets New Jersey apart. Of course, better teachers going there, a lot of smaller classroom sizes as well. So, that small pupil to teacher ratio also give New Jersey a boost," Gonzalez said.
She pointed out there's about 12 students for every one teacher. "That's the fourth lowest in the country. So, a lot of individual attention, and that typically equates to high test scores," said Gonzalez.
New Jersey continues filling that tradition as well, according to Gonzalez. "We looked at math scores in Grades 4 and 8, the same for reading test scores, top five marks across the board, and that really carries on the trajectory to average SAT and ACT scores, which means that a lot of those students are very well prepared for college," Gonzalez said.
In addition to a smaller teacher-to-pupil ratio, New Jersey is more strict than other states when it comes to meeting licensing and certification requirements, noted Gonzalez.
"99-and-a-half percent of all public elementary and secondary school teachers do meet those certification requirements, so I think that's another reason why the test scores there are so high." she said.
While the quality of education is an important factor, safety is too.
"Students, teachers, or parents can't really focus on that education if they're fearing for their safety at school, and that's really not something that we see in New Jersey. Only about 6 percent of high schoolers or so reported being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property last year," said Gonzalez. She added a lot of states have double digits in those numbers, while New Jersey is "top ten for its rate of discipline incidents per 100,000 students as well, and New Jersey has a very low youth incarceration rate, so we're not seeing a lot of those, maybe in school bullying incidents, then get escalated to where someone has to go to juvenile detention or a correctional facility."
Although New Jersey ranked 30th best for SAT's as opposed to 8th best for ACT scores, Gonzalez pointed out they're seeing this with a lot of Northeastern states.
"Not a lot of students are taking the ACT's in that state, so that kind of helps to bump that score up. The ones that are taking it might be looking at the Ivy's or second tier schools, where as pretty much every student in New Jersey that goes on to take one of those tests at least takes the SAT, maybe the ACT is secondary, so I think that's why we get more of a number skew between those two tests," explained Gonzalez.
Most of the top ten states with the nation's best school systems are in the Northeast, which Gonzalez pointed out is nothing new.
"This is something that we've seen year after year, a lot of southern states towards the bottom of the list. Education is not living in a vacuum somewhere. This is very closely related to tax rates, property tax rates, kind of that mentality that you get what you pay for," Gonzalez said, something New Jersey residents can definitely attest to. "The tax rates are high, but there's that sense that you're getting a top notch education for your children too," she added.
WalletHub's list of the 10 state's with the Best School Systems include Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Virginia, Maine, Delaware and Minnesota respectively.
The 10 states with the Worst School Systems include Alabama, Oregon, Nevada, West Virginia, Mississippi, District of Columbia, Arizona, Alaska, New Mexico and Louisiana, respectively.