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Where are the Best and Worst States to Work as a Teacher?

Updated: Sep 28

Teaching can be a rewarding profession that helps one serve others and build future generations. With enough time and certifications, it can also pay fairly well. However, different states have their own standards when it comes to teaching students. Although the entirety of the USA needs teachers, some educators may prefer one location over another. There could be various factors that would go into this decision, but the quality of the education students receive is a major one. How much it might cost the professional to live in the area is something else they must take into consideration. We’ll explore some of the best and worst states for people with degrees in education here in this article.


Top and Bottom States for Teachers in 2022, Ranked by the Overall Quality of Education

We could examine various metrics that might tell us about the best or worst states in which teachers can find work today. However, the quality of the education they are able to provide to students is a major contributor to their desire to stay in this industry. While this quality level can fluctuate based on the knowledge and experience level of the teacher, every educator must adhere to the standards and curriculum set forth by the state or region. Therefore, it makes sense to look at this metric in particular.


Before we continue, we should note that different statistical information on the best or worst schools may use combinations of different metrics in order to compile data. You may find that not every leading source on education agrees on which states are the best and worst. However, the states on our list should show up in most of the sources one might look at, particularly in how their schools rank according to the national average.


5 Best States for Teachers This Year


5. Vermont

Overall, Vermont usually has public schools that rank fifth in the country by academic performance metrics. One reason for this may be the relatively low teacher-to-student ratio with which the state must deal. On average, there are about 10 students to every educator in the classroom. This is relatively small class size, and it means that teachers can afford to give more personalized instruction to any students who may experience some difficulties in grasping the concepts in the class.


4. Virginia

Slightly higher on our list is Virginia. Given the raw numbers, Virginia’s population tends to be slightly more educated than that of Vermont. In fact, almost 40 percent of the adult population of Virginia has attained at least a bachelor’s level of higher education. In particular, the state boasts some pretty high academic scores when it comes to the area of mathematics. By most metrics, Virginia scores fourth place in this field.


3. New Jersey

New Jersey’s school system is usually in the top three throughout the nation. Part of the state’s success may be in its relatively low dropout rate. It is almost at the bottom of the dropout statistics, meaning that very few students who go through the school system here do not manage to complete it. Additionally, most of the schools in the state tend to boast very high reading skill levels across different grades. Along with its public schools getting third place, New Jersey tends to rank fifth out of 50 for meeting its educational attainment metrics.


2. Connecticut

Overall, Connecticut is among the top states for good school systems in the country, typically coming in at second place. In terms of academic achievement, the state tends to rank fifth according to the education levels of its entire population. One of the ways we might look at Connecticut’s success is in the ACT scores of its students. The ACT is one of the standardized tests that schools can use to determine the likelihood of college admissions for students throughout the country. Connecticut’s median score for this test, which is over 25, usually tops all other states. This means that many of the state’s students are academically ready to attend challenging universities throughout the country.


1. Massachusetts

While there are some metrics that could change how we view the absolute best schools in the nation, Massachusetts tops many of the lists you’ll find. This is particularly true if we’re looking at the strict academic performances of students by state. In terms of educational attainment, Massachusetts lags behind only the District of Columbia. This gives the former a total population in which almost all of its members have higher education. Over 90 percent of the state’s residents have at least a full high school degree. Almost half of the people of Massachusetts have at least a bachelor’s degree as well.


5 Worst States for Teachers This Year


5. Oklahoma

Oklahoma tends to rank quite low on most lists that try to measure the academic successes of student populations by state. In particular, Oklahoma tends to fall behind many other states when it comes to student proficiency in math scores. For example, less than 25 percent of the state’s pupils in the eighth grade are attaining good levels in this area of study. While the state’s high school graduation rates seem serviceable, only about a quarter of the adults in Oklahoma who go on to attain higher education reach the bachelor’s level and get a degree.


4. Arkansas

Arkansas hovers around the 47th place in many lists for its overall educational attainment score. While this is problematic, it is important to understand that there are several compounding factors here that may be out of a school district or family’s control. Less than half of the children in the state come from families earning at least twice the poverty level for Arkansas, and this could make helping their children succeed academically quite difficult.


3. Louisiana

Louisiana’s attainment level falls just behind Arkansas. For both high school diploma and bachelor’s degree holders, the state ranks fourth-lowest in the country. This metric is also true for the number of students that tend to graduate from institutions of higher learning as well. However, it is important to consider those severe weather anomalies that often plague the state can disrupt student education.


2. Mississippi

Unfortunately, Mississippi ranks almost last in meeting standards for educational success. In terms of students who hold at least a high school diploma, the state is in the bottom three numbers. This number also holds true in terms of how many people in the state have completed at least one bachelor’s course of study.


1. West Virginia

West Virginia has the lowest population of students holding either associate's or bachelor’s degrees. In turn, the overall quality levels of the state’s universities also rank quite low. However, we cannot overlook that many families living here are at some financial disadvantage. Financial insecurity can make it very difficult for children to succeed academically.


Best States for Teachers by the Cost of Living This Year

How much it costs to live in a state while keeping a particular standard is a major draw for some educators. Interestingly, while the academic performance levels of some states might be quite low, these same states can, at times, allow teachers to live quite inexpensively.


The top 5 states for teachers by the cost of living in 2022 are:

5. Georgia

4. Oklahoma

3. Alabama

2. Kansas

1. Mississippi


Tips for Choosing Where To Teach

We’ve listed some of the major ways you can figure out where you may want to teach already, and going for a place that has high academic performance is certainly one of them. However, you may wish to consider the alternative, using your skills to help bring an academically challenged area up to a higher standard. Further, many such places have low ranges for their living costs, making them affordable on some starting teacher salaries.


Conclusion

While there are many metrics by which we might determine the best or worst places to teach, we’ve chosen to focus on performance levels here. However, different institutions may arrive at their rankings in different ways, so the lists you find may have some variations in just where each state ends up.

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