The Best and Worst States for Teachers in the United States: 2018

Each year, the analysts at WalletHub apply their considerable analytical skills to rank the Best and Worst States for Teachers in the U.S. To determine their rankings, the WalletHub number crunchers look at 22 criteria (including average teacher salary, average teacher/student ratio, average work hours per week per teacher and everything in between) across two primary categories: Academic/Work Environment and Opportunity/Competition. After collecting the data for each criterion, they assign each a statistical weight and combine them to arrive at an overall teacher ranking for each state.

This article will first present the results from three of the significant individual criteria (Annual Teacher Salaries, Highest Budget Per Student, and Best School System Ranking), then reveal the rankings for Academic/Work Environment and Opportunity/Competition, and finally share WalletHub’s Best and Worst overall States for Teachers for 2018.

Annual Teacher Salaries, Adjusted for Cost of Living

(WalletHub’s Sources: National Education Association, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Association for Education Statistics)

Top 5

  1. Michigan
  2. Illinois
  3. Pennsylvania
  4. Ohio
  5. New York

Bottom 5  (47th-51st place)

  1.  Vermont
  2. West Virginia
  3. South Dakota
  4. Maine
  5. Hawaii

Highest Budget Per Student, Public Schools

(WalletHub’s Sources: National Education Association, National Association for Education Statistics)

Top 5

  1. District of Columbia
  2. New York
  3. Alaska
  4. Connecticut
  5. New Jersey

Bottom 5

  1.      North Dakota
  2.      Arizona
  3.      Utah
  4.      Idaho
  5.      Indiana

School Systems Ranking

(WalletHub’s Sources: National Education Association, National Association for Education Statistics, Based on student achievement.)

Top 5

  1. Massachusetts
  2. New Jersey
  3. Connecticut
  4. New Hampshire
  5. Vermont

Bottom 5

  1. Arizona
  2. Alaska
  3. District of Columbia
  4. Louisiana
  5.  New Mexico

Now, for the three big categories, according to WalletHub: Academic/Work Environment, Opportunity/Competition, and Best Overall States for Teachers, 2014.

Academic/Work Environment

(WalletHub’s Sources: National Education Association, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Association for Education Statistics. Based on: teacher/student ratio, school system ranking, spending per student per state, teacher commuting time, teacher work hours, school safety)

Top 5

  1. New Jersey
  2. Connecticut
  3. North Dakota
  4. Wyoming
  5. Massachusetts

Bottom 5

  1. California
  2. Mississippi
  3. South Caroline
  4. Alaska
  5.  Arizona

Opportunity/Competition

(WalletHub’s Sources: National Education Association, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Association for Education Statistics. Based on: salaries, number of teachers per person per state, unemployment, number of schools per person per state, change in teacher salaries over time, number of teacher job openings per state)

Top 5

  1. Alaska
  2. Illinois
  3. Texas
  4. New York
  5. Minnesota

Bottom 5

  1. North Carolina
  2. Florida
  3. Maine
  4. Arizona
  5. Hawaii

Overall Rankings

Top 5

  1. New York
  2. Connecticut
  3. Minnesota
  4. Illinois
  5. North Dakota

Bottom 5

  1. Florida
  2. Louisiana
  3. North Carolina
  4. Arizona
  5. Hawaii

Conclusion and Analysis

“The Best and Worst States for Teachers” report contained a few surprises this year:

  • Vermont ranked near the bottom for Annual Teacher Salaries (47th place), yet in the top five for School Systems Ranking (5th place).
  • Washington, D.C. held the top spot for Highest Budget Per Student, yet only managed 49th for School Systems Ranking.
  • Michigan paid their teachers the most but failed to crack the top five in any other category.
  • Alaska ranked in the Top 5 for Annual Budget Per Student, but in the Bottom 5 for School Systems Ranking and Academic/Work Environment.
  • Mississippi, a state which in previous years occupied spots in the Bottom Five across almost all categories, appeared in the Bottom Five only once, in the Academic/Work Environment category.

Despite those surprises – which are mostly related to apparent inconsistencies between categories – there were consistencies to be found in the report.

First, the consistently low performers: Arizona and Hawaii.

Arizona appeared in Bottom Five in five categories: Highest Budget Per Student, School System Ranking, Academic/Work Environment, Opportunity/Competition, and Overall Ranking. Hawaii appeared in the Bottom Five in three categories: Annual Teacher Salaries, Opportunity/Competition, and Overall Ranking. While there may be extenuating circumstances due to its location and size, keep in mind that all of these statistics are weighted to eliminate factors like these and level the statistical playing field as much as possible.

Now, the high performers: New York, Connecticut, and Illinois.

New York appeared in the Top Five in four categories: Annual Teacher Salaries, Highest Budget Per Student, Opportunity/Competition, and Overall Ranking (1st). Connecticut also appeared in the Top Five in four categories: Highest Budget Per Student, School Systems Ranking, Academic/Work Environment, and Overall Ranking (2nd). Honorable mentions go to: Illinois (3), Massachusetts (2), New Jersey (2), and Michigan (2).