Success often starts with a good education. And no state lays that groundwork better than Massachusetts.
That’s according to the Education Week Research Center, a nonpartisan group that measured indicators such as preschool and kindergarten enrollment, high school graduation rates, and higher education attainment. The yearly study also considered family income and parental employment, which are linked to educational achievement.
In almost every category, the Bay State beats the national average: More than 60 percent of Massachusetts children have a parent with a post-secondary degree, 14 points higher than average, and nearly 60 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in preschool, more than 10 points above the national average.
No surprise, nearly half of Massachusetts fourth-graders are proficient on National Assessment of Educational Progress reading tests, and more than 54 percent of eighth-graders get proficient scores on NAEP math tests — both the highest rates in the country.
The underlying reason is a bipartisan commitment to education reform. Massachusetts passed a major school reform package in 1993, increasing spending, particularly in poorer districts; raising assessment standards; and making licensure exams for new teachers more difficult. Several other states improved their standards around the same time. But when partisan priorities shifted in other places, Massachusetts Republicans and Democrats alike continued investing heavily in education.
Improving scores, particularly among low-income and minority students, is still a challenge, and Massachusetts has done no better in closing the achievement gap than most other states.
Eastern Seaboard states perform best in the Education Week rankings. New Jersey, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont, Maryland and Virginia join Massachusetts in the top 10, along with Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa. Three of the bottom five states — Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada — are in the Southwest.
Highly ranked states spend more per capita on their students than average, though higher spending doesn’t necessarily equal success. Alaska spent more than $17,000 per pupil in fiscal year 2012, though the state lands in the bottom half of Education Week’s rankings.
The rest of the country could learn a few things from Massachusetts’s schools — their students certainly have.