Massachusetts moved to the head of the class as the nation's "smartest state" while New Mexico came in last for the second straight year, a publishing company said in a new report.
The "smartest state" ranking comes from Morgan Quitno, a reference book publishing company based in Lawrence, Kan. This is the second year the company ranked the quality of states' elementary and secondary education systems.
The publisher looked at 21 factors to come up with its list, including per pupil expenditures, public high school graduation rates and average class size.
Massachusetts moved from the seventh spot last year to first this year with a "winning combination," of high student test scores and devoting a high percentage of money to classrooms and teachers, said Scott Morgan, president of Morgan Quitno Press.
New Mexico is working on improving its education system, but high child poverty rates and other social ills make it hard for that state to succeed, Morgan said. "We were surprised when we did this last year that New Mexico was so solidly in last place and are surprised again that it stayed that way," he told Stateline.org.
Voters in New Mexico took up education in a special election this week that may result in major changes for education, said Ruth Williams, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Education. "Our hope is that as improvements are instituted we will see national ratings that more accurately reflect the work of educators on behalf of the children of our state," she told Stateline.org.
New Mexico voters approved a proposal to create a secretary of education who would answer directly to the governor, but the state was still counting votes on whether to increase the amount of money from the state's "permanent fund" that goes to classrooms.
Williams noted that earlier this year, a report from Education Week found that New Mexico and Connecticut both earned "B"s and placed 15th in the nation in the area of education standards and accountability. Connecticut ranked first last year in the Morgan Quitno Press list. The Education Week report was funded in part by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the same organization that funds Stateline.org.
Rounding out the top five states with Massachusetts were Vermont, last year's winner, Connecticut, Montana and New Jersey. Bringing up the lower end of the rankings scale were Nevada, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.
Morgan Quitno Press also publishes the "Most Livable State" and the "Safest and Most Dangerous States" rankings.