NJ School System Ranked Second-Best in U.S.
New Jersey's school system is ranked second best overall, beat out only by Massachusetts, according to a WalletHub study.
The report looked at 20 different metrics, 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," Gonzalez said.
New Jersey has several positive factors that helped its school system rank so high, including a high percentage of public schools that made U.S. News and World Report's annual list of the best U.S. schools, 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," she said. "So, that already sets New Jersey apart. Of course, better teachers going there, a lot of smaller classroom sizes (help) as well. So, that small pupil-to-teacher ratio also give New Jersey a boost."
She said there are 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," Gonzalez said.
New Jersey has seen solid test scores as well, with math and reading scores for grades four through eight showing up among the "top five marks across the board," she said.
"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.
New Jersey is more strict than other states when it comes to meeting licensing and certification requirements, Gonzalez said.
"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 in Wallethub's ranking, 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," Gonzalez said.
For many states, that figure is in the double digits, she said. But New Jersey is "top 10 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.
Such incident may start as "school bullying incidents, then get escalated to where someone has to go to juvenile detention or a correctional facility," she said.
Although New Jersey ranked 30th best for SATs as opposed to eighth best for ACT scores, Gonzalez pointed out Wallethub saw a similar pattern with a lot of Northeastern states.
"Not a lot of students are taking the ACTs in that state, so that kind of helps to bump that score up. The ones that are taking it might be looking at the Ivys or second-tier schools, whereas pretty much every student in New Jersey that goes on to take one of those tests at least takes the SAT," Gonzalez said.
Most of the top 10 states on the list are in theNortheast, 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. "The tax rates are high, but there's that sense that you're getting a top-notch education for your children too."
According to WalletHub, the 10 states with the best school systems are Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Virginia, Maine, Delaware and Minnesota.
The 10 states with the worst school systems were Alabama, Oregon, Nevada, West Virginia, Mississippi, District of Columbia, Arizona, Alaska, New Mexico and Louisiana, according to the report.
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