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This is the major factor for Florida’s No. 1 ranking in education by U.S. News

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Did Florida receive all A’s on its latest report from U.S. News & World Report? Kind of.

The U.S. News released its ranking of all 50 states, using 71 metrics across eight categories to determine the best states to live in.

Florida placed within the top ten overall best states to live in, particularly excelling in the “Education” category for the second year in a row. In evaluating the best states for education, the U.S. News examined metrics tied to both higher education and the space from pre-kindergarten through high school.

“The quality of a community’s schools can be central to a family’s aspirations,” U.S. News writes. “And though public education has largely been a local matter for school boards and states that allocate most of schools’ funding, the federal government has played a large role for the past several decades.”

Why is Florida the top state for education?

Out of all 50 states, Florida saw the top spot for education. It was also named the ninth best state to live in overall, going up from last year’s placement.

U.S. News highlighted the state’s higher education, placing first in the specific subcategory. It’s metrics reflect the share of citizens in each state holding college degrees, as well as college graduation rates, the cost of in-state tuition and fees, and the burden of debt that college graduates carry.

“With several large cities, the state also has a sizable system of state universities and community colleges. The University of Florida in Gainesville and Florida State University in Tallahassee have been rivaled in enrollment by the University of South Florida in Tampa, University of Central Florida in Orlando, and Florida International University in Miami. Among the best known private institutions: University of Miami.”

As for Pre-K through 12th grades, the state placed 10th overall. This subcategory measures state performance across the life cycle of a young person’s education, encompassing preschool enrollment, standardized test scores among eighth-graders, high school graduation rate and college readiness.

It also notes the state’s average high school graduation rate is 87.3%, higher than the country’s average of 85.9%.

DeSantis’ legislation not reflected in 2024 ranking, U.S. News shares

In a further analysis of the results, U.S. News said addressed the debate around education in Florida and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ stance on “woke politics” in schools.

The education metrics used by U.S. News to rank the states tend to focus on aspects of affordability, accessibility and achievement, and the controversial moves DeSantis has made so far may not be reflected there,” U.S. News said. “The data used also can lag behind more recent developments due to when it’s released by a source and to the time needed for analysis. Many education metrics are tied to the year 2022, for example, and policy shifts may take time to play out.”

While DeSantis’ message of “Make America Florida” didn’t pander to other states in terms of education, the state sees high marks in the category. For example, in metrics reflecting pre-K through high school, Florida excelled the most in college readiness – an assessment of the share of 12th-graders who scored highly on the SAT, ACT or both. 

However, the analysis mentions critics contend DeSantis’ moves could have lasting effects on the education system and those within it.

What have Florida officials said about the ranking?

In a press release, the Florida Department of Education highlighted the ranking.

“Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, Florida again ranks number one in education,” Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr said. “By focusing on core academic subjects and excellence in the classroom, Florida stands ahead of the rest.”

Back in April, DeSantis made a comment about Florida’s education while signing HB 1285, which seeks to make it easier for underperforming schools to become charter schools, among other things.

What is HB 1285: In Pensacola, DeSantis touts bill limiting activists’ ability to challenge school books

“Florida is the No. 1 state in the country for education,” DeSantis said. “By focusing on core academic subjects and rejecting indoctrination in the classroom, we have become a standard-bearer for educational excellence. The legislation I signed today continues to build on Florida’s previous accomplishments.”

How did Florida rank in other categories?

The other individual rankings for Florida included the following: 

  • Economy – 1
  • Crime & Corrections – 13
  • Natural Environment – 13
  • Fiscal Stability – 20
  • Infrastructure – 20
  • Health Care – 26
  • Opportunity – 45

What are the top 10 best states for education in the country?

Here is what states follow Florida in education:

  1. Florida
  2. Utah
  3. Massachusetts
  4. New Jersey
  5. Colorado
  6. Wisconsin
  7. Wyoming
  8. Connecticut
  9. New Hampshire
  10. Virginia

What is the ‘worst’ U.S. state for education?

New Mexico placed 50th in overall education for the country, getting last place for Pre-K through 12 and 21th place for higher education.

New Mexico is home to only about a dozen four-year, degree-granting institutions but the ranking notes Albuquerque, the largest city in New Mexico, is home to one of the state’s largest universities and employers, the University of New Mexico.

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