These 15 States Have the Worst Education in the U.S.

By: Georgia | Published: Dec 04, 2023

The United States presents a diverse landscape of educational opportunities and challenges. While some states boast high standards and successful outcomes, others lag behind, facing various difficulties that impede their educational progress.

For example, in South Dakota, the issue of underfunding in public schools has come to the forefront as a significant factor impacting educational quality. Despite a graduation rate of 83.9% – which is not the lowest in the nation – lack of financial support hinders the potential for students to achieve greater success and improvement within the state’s educational system.

Indiana

Indiana’s educational landscape reveals a curious disparity: high school graduation rates are above the national average at 86.8%, but only 25.6% of adults hold a bachelor’s degree.

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An aerial photograph capturing a wide view of downtown Indianapolis, with a variety of buildings including high-rises

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This places Indiana among the lower ranks nationally in terms of the percentage of residents with higher education, despite the presence of many prominent universities.

Texas

Texas, with its vast population, faces the challenge of adequately funding its public schools, which affects the overall quality of education.

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A long-exposure photograph capturing the vibrant nighttime skyline of Dallas, Texas

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The high school graduation rate surpasses the national average, yet only 28.9% of adults have achieved a bachelor’s degree. Interestingly, the state’s commitment to high school football receives considerable funding, influencing the financial distribution within the educational system.

South Carolina

South Carolina is dealing with significant educational shortcomings, indicated by low graduation rates and underwhelming state test scores.

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Photograph of a historic street in Charleston, South Carolina, during twilight. The image features a row of traditional Charleston townhouses with colorful facades, black shutters, and palmetto trees in the foreground

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Economic factors, such as the low average income of its residents, contribute to this issue. The percentage of adults with a bachelor’s degree stands at 27.2%, reflecting one of the lowest rates in the nation.

Alaska

Despite Alaska’s substantial budget for school spending, it faces unique challenges that contribute to a low graduation rate of 76.2%.

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The geographical vastness and the remote location of schools limit student interaction and contribute to a smaller student population at each school, which in turn affects educational outcomes.

Idaho

In Idaho, a lack of funding for early childhood education is a concern, as this stage is crucial for cognitive development.

Twilight view over a bustling street in Boise, Idaho, with light trails from moving vehicles creating a vibrant scene

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The state’s graduation rate is 79.7%, reflecting the impact of insufficient resources in preparing children for their educational journey from the very beginning.

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Arizona

Arizona’s educational system shows that a significant portion of students come from non-English-speaking households.

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A panoramic view of Tucson, Arizona during golden hour, showcasing the vast, flat expanse of the city with residential and commercial buildings

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The state does not provide additional resources for these students to overcome language barriers, which may contribute to the state’s graduation rate of 79.5%.

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Tennessee

Tennessee has one of the lowest rates of Pre-K enrollment for children aged three and four, which is approximately ten percent below the national average.

The skyline of downtown Nashville, Tennessee, captured during sunset

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Additionally, the state has a low percentage of adults with bachelor’s degrees, at 26.2%, suggesting room for improvement in the early and higher education sectors.

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Nevada

Nevada faces a stark educational reality with the second-lowest graduation rate in the nation—73.6%.

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The Fremont East District sign arches over a street in Las Vegas, Nevada, against a backdrop of a sunset sky

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The state’s investment in education per school is among the lowest, contributing to these concerning statistics.

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Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s education system reveals a specific weakness in mathematics, with proficiency rates for eighth graders and fourth graders being among the lowest in the country.

Aerial view of Oklahoma City's skyline during dusk

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Despite this, the state maintains an average high school graduation rate of 81.6%.

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Alabama

The state of Alabama’s educational performance is characterized by low math scores, with only about 26% of fourth graders and 17% of eighth graders scoring proficiency.

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A dusk scene of the Birmingham, Alabama skyline reflected in the waters of a river

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The high school graduation rate is just below the national average, indicating broader challenges within the state’s education system.

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West Virginia

In West Virginia, the percentage of adults with a bachelor’s degree is striking low at 20.6%. The quality of higher education institutions is also a concern, ranking as one of the worst in the country.

An elevated view of the historic town of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

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These issues are compounded by the prevalence of low-income families within the state, which can affect educational access and quality.

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