The First Amendment in the 21st Century

first amendment 21st

What is the First Amendment and why is it so important?

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

There it is: the entire text of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Brief enough to fit in a single (280 character) tweet, it remains the most lauded, yet hotly debated section of our nation’s defining document.

In essence, the First Amendment guarantees U.S. citizens the right to express themselves and worship as they choose, free of government interference. Yet, due to major societal changes over the centuries, and the brevity of the Amendment itself, interpretations of the First Amendment have shifted greatly over the years. Landmark court cases have expanded its protections for types of speech that James Madison, drafter of the original Constitution, and the Founding Fathers, didn’t address over two hundred years ago.

Debate over the rights granted by--and limitations of--the First Amendment rage to this day, manifesting themselves in new ways with each passing year. In this guide we’ll briefly cover what the First Amendment does and doesn’t protect, and then discuss some current challenges it faces.?

What does the First Amendment protect?

In its original form, and through subsequent Supreme Court clarifications, the First Amendment grants Americans certain freedoms of expression. Here’s the rundown:

  • Freedom of Speech. The most fundamental right granted by the First Amendment. Basically, you are allowed to express your opinions and thoughts without worrying about government censorship.

  • Freedom of the Press. Protects the rights of journalists and publications to distribute information and points-of-view without government interference or censorship.

  • Free Exercise of Religion. One of the most important issues for the Founders, in light of England’s persecution of religious minority groups. This facet of the First Amendment allows citizens to worship any god, or gods, they choose, in any way they wish, with exceptions in cases where other peoples’ rights could be violated, as in the cases of polygamy and human sacrifice.

  • Freedom of Assembly. The First Amendment guarantees the right of people to peacefully assemble to express their views, dissatisfaction with political or societal developments, or in support of labor rights. Of course, protests get out of hand, and law enforcement tasked with policing large demonstrations often exceed their powers, rendering this a controversial part of the amendment.

  • The Right to Petition. Allows citizens to gather signatures and lobby the government for desired changes in the law, or even sue the government, without retaliation. However, the government isn’t actually required to listen, as settled in this 1984 Supreme Court decision.

  • Political speech. A wide category granting citizens the right to discuss contemporary political issues like taxes, gun rights, abortion, etc. without restriction. However, in recent decades the definition of “political speech” has been interpreted by some to include the money of corporations and wealthy groups used in support of certain political candidates, igniting a debate that reached the Supreme Court in the landmark cases, Citizens United v. FEC. The Court controversially ruled that political spending by corporations and labor unions is a form of protected speech.

  • Prior restraint. Prior restraint isn’t a right, but rather a type of government restriction on speech and expression--before it has taken place or been published--that the First Amendment protects againstNear vs. Minnesota (1931) was the first case to outline clear restrictions against the practice, yet the most famous case regarding prior restraint is the 1971 Supreme Court ruling permitting the New York Times and Washington Post to publish portions of the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret document detailing the U.S.’s activities during the Vietnam War, overruling then-President Richard Nixon’s attempt to bar them from doing so on the grounds that it would cause "irreparable injury to the defense interests of the United States". This sequence of events was dramatized in the 2017 film, The Post.

What isn’t protected by the First Amendment?

The free speech protections of the First Amendment are broad and far-reaching, though there are some types of speech that it does not protect:

  • Defamation. The spread of lies about a person or group that harms their reputation. Defamation falls into two categories: libel, which covers falsehoods in the printed word and media, and slander, a.k.a., spoken defamation. While defamation is a punishable offense not covered by the first amendment in the U.S., many court cases have sought to determine which speech qualifies as such. The general consensus is that a statement must be proven false before the target may proceed with litigation.
  • Hate Speech. While not prohibited by the First Amendment, certain incidents of hate speech--speech attacking a person or group on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, or other attributes--may be unprotected if they instigate violence against others.

  • True Threats. Communicating violent intent is a criminal act in the United States. Nobody is allowed to threaten to use a deadly weapon, or other means, to harm an individual. With the growing ubiquity of online communication in the past decade, several states have passed laws against cyberbullying, though some have been sued for doing so on First Amendment grounds.

  • Intellectual Property and Commercial Speech. This is where free speech runs into copyright law, and the rules get rather complicated. Basically, it’s illegal in most cases to publish or reproduce copyrighted material. A person also waives their First Amendment rights in situations where they legally agree not to speak on certain matters by signing employment contracts or nondisclosure agreements.
  • Censorship. The landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision Miller vs. California ruled that the sale and distribution of obscene material is not protected by the First Amendment. They set three criteria for determining what is obscene material that essentially describes hardcore pornography.

    In the past, presidential administrations and governmental figures have sought to censor certain forms of political speech during periods of anti-communist hysteria, as well as information thought to hamper U.S. military objectives during wartime, but generally, this censorship was objected to by the public and third-party legal groups, without far-reaching implications.

Is the First Amendment under attack in American Universities?

In the past few years, a new controversy over free speech has arisen on university campuses, with speaking engagements of conservative intellectuals being met with heated protests hoping to silence their words.

Last September, conservative radio host and Fox News contributor Ben Shapiro spoke to a crowd at Berkeley College, while outside, riot police attempted to control a crowd of over 1000 that showed up to protest the event.

A similar situation occurred in May 2017, when Charles Murray, the controversial author of The Bell Curve, took the stage at Vermont’s Middlebury College, and was met by chants, and violence outside in the event’s aftermath.

Scheduled speaking events by alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley and others have been cancelled entirely due to the looming threat of violence that their presence promises to incite.

The heated resistance against conservative speakers and ideas at these liberal campuses that once led the way in the Free Speech Movement has many claiming that the First Amendment is under attack on American universities, while protesters counter that figures like Murray and Shapiro espouse hateful views that aren’t protected by the Constitution.

The furor represents the increasing intolerance Americans have for opposing views and the shift towards political radicalism in the wake of Trump’s presidential victory.

Do these campus protests indicate that the First Amendment is in danger? Echoing the sentiments of many faculty and administration members around the country, Columbia law professor Suzanne Goldberg states, "it is foundational to [our university’s] learning and teaching missions that we allow for the contestation of ideas...This includes expression of ideas that are deeply unpopular, offensive to many in our community, contrary to research-based understandings, and antagonistic to University tenets."

It's too early to tell if this current debate will have a permanent impact on American universities, expanding the definition of what constitutes hate speech, or whether it is a temporary byproduct of a heated political moment.

The First Amendment and the Internet

The explosion of internet use and social media activity has ushered in a new age of collective participation in political and societal debate. The ACLU is dedicated to keeping the web a free-speech zone with full First Amendment protections in the face of perceived parties looking to regulate speech on the internet.

In the case, Reno v. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the ACLU, deciding that the government has no right to restrict or censor American citizens’ words or content on the web, a major victory for proponents of free speech in our wired age.

However, others argue that the unique anonymity afforded by the internet gives hate groups a shield to hide behind in which to spread white supremacist views and incite violence towards minorities on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, and should be policed accordingly.

Finding a balance between honoring First Amendment principles and limiting threatening rhetoric, exploitation, and calls to violence on the internet will be a struggle for years to come.

Does the First Amendment extend to Facebook and Twitter?

As detailed in this Wired piece, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in the 2010 case, Packingham v. North Carolina, that convicted sex offender Lester Packingham Jr. had the right to use Facebook and other parts of the internet that he was blocked from by his home state due to his 2002 conviction with an underage girl.

In his written opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy stated, “Foreclosing access to social media altogether thus prevents users from engaging in the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights.”

The decision, despite being in service of a man convicted of an awful crime, was a major victory for those in support of free speech on the internet. While it doesn’t prohibit Facebook from censoring users that violate its terms of service, it does bar government from interfering with the constitutional rights of citizens.

A more recent question for courts to determine is whether Donald Trump, the President of the United States, is allowed to block citizens from viewing his posts on his highly active Twitter feed, or whether doing so violates their First Amendment rights.

In a recent hearing in a Manhattan federal court, the plaintiffs argued that since the President uses his Twitter in an official capacity--announcing hirings, firings, and policy decisions--it is a public forum, and blocking Americans from viewing it is unconstitutional.

In contrast, Michelle Baer, Trump’s attorney, claims that his Twitter use is unaffiliated with the government and he reserves the right to block who he sees fit.

The case has yet to be resolved, but the decision will be a landmark for the regulation how major governmental figures use social media going forward.

Does the First Amendment allow businesses to refuse service based on the owner’s religious beliefs?

A number of pending cases are set to decide if American businesses may refuse service based on the Free Exercise of Religion and Free Speech aspects of the First Amendment, or whether doing so violates discrimination laws.

In Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Charlie Craig and David Mullins argue that owner Jack Philip of Masterpiece Cakeshop’s 2012 refusal to create a cake for their wedding violates Colorado’s public accommodation law. Philips’s defense was that, at the time, same-sex marriage was not yet legal in the state, and that the First Amendment protected his right not to make creative work contradicting his beliefs.

Philips lost the initial lawsuit, and the Supreme Court of Colorado rejected a subsequent appeal. The case was eventually brought to the U.S. Supreme court, which heard oral arguments in December 2017, with the final decision still pending.

The case has gained a lot of attention, with many legal briefs being filed by parties on both sides. University law professor Dale Carpenter argues in the Washington Post that the baker’s refusal is not protected by the Free Speech Clause because cake baking is not historically considered a form of protected speech, and that the mere making of a cake is not inherently an endorsement by the owner of the customers’ lifestyle.

Contrastingly, the U.S. Justice Department issued a brief in support of Philips, stating that anti-discrimination laws do not mandate a business provide a service that they do not agree with.

In the past, similar civil suits have decided in favor of the plaintiffs, yet the Supreme Court decision in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case could be a landmark decision, setting the boundaries for future situations when owners refuse service on First Amendment grounds.

Freedom of the Press Under Attack by the President

President Donald Trump’s public attacks on the press present one of the most alarming challenges to the First Amendment in recent times. In his Twitter feed and in speeches, the President has repeatedly attacked media networks and news publications after unflattering stories he claims were untrue.

In December 2017, he opined that NBC News should lose its license for publishing a story that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump “a moron” for requesting that the U.S. substantially increase its nuclear weapons stockpile during a meeting with military heads.

The publication of Michael Wolff’s incendiary account of Trump’s first year in office aroused the President’s ire even further, and he lashed out by expressing his desire to toughen up the U.S.’s “very weak” libel laws (despite there being no federal libel law, as libel cases are taken on by states), even sending a cease and desist letter to the author and the book’s publisher.

Trump’s repeated critiques of what he calls the “Fake News Media”, attempts to sue publications, and restriction of access to certain journalists represent an existential threat to the Freedom of the Press clause of the First Amendment.

While the president has no power himself to change the laws, and for now, no publication has has been censored or backed away from publishing stories critical of the administration, Trump’s attacks on the First Amendment create a dangerous precedent that could shift the opinion of his followers towards limiting one of the most principle freedoms of our democracy, having ramifications for years to come.

Top School Districts in Texas, 2018

The second largest state in the the nation as well as the second most populous, the Lone Star State excels at putting students out into the world with a high school diploma, ranking #4 in the nation in graduation rate according to U.S. News & World Report.

Texas’ best public school district is Highland Park Independent School District (Dallas County), comprising seven schools located in Highland Park and University Park. HPISD has long been recognized for its academic excellence, with a whopping 27 students from Highland Park HIgh School being named National Merit Semifinalists in 2017.

Ranking #2 is Lovejoy Independent School District, based in Collin County, TX. Established in 1917, Lovejoy was recently the winner of the State of Texas HEB Excellence in Education Award.

Falls City Independent School District, a small system of two schools based in Falls City, around 30 miles southeast of San Antonio, comes in third. Due to its high level of academic achievement, Falls City High School was awarded a bronze medal by U.S. News, signifying its status as one of the top high schools in the nation.

At #4 is Carroll Independent School District of Southlake, TX, a suburb in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. Carroll ISD is the largest district in the state to hold the “Exemplary” rating granted by the Texas Education Agency.

Rounding out Texas’ top five is Klondike Independent School District, another district to earn the distinction of an “Exemplary” rating.

Top School Districts in Texas, 2018

State RankSchool DistrictState
1Highland Park IsdTexas
2Lovejoy IsdTexas
3Falls City IsdTexas
4Carroll IsdTexas
5Klondike IsdTexas
6Eanes IsdTexas
7Frisco IsdTexas
8Prosper IsdTexas
9Lake Travis IsdTexas
10Allen IsdTexas
11Grady IsdTexas
12Coppell IsdTexas
13Argyle IsdTexas
14Friendswood IsdTexas
15Port Aransas IsdTexas
16Crawford IsdTexas
17Dripping Springs IsdTexas
18Plano IsdTexas
19Lubbock-Cooper IsdTexas
20Northwest IsdTexas
21Sabine Pass IsdTexas
22Leander IsdTexas
23Round Rock IsdTexas
24Randolph Field IsdTexas
25Wylie IsdTexas
26Keller IsdTexas
27Melissa IsdTexas
28Pearland IsdTexas
29Barbers Hill IsdTexas
30Wall IsdTexas
31Aubrey IsdTexas
32Sands CisdTexas
33Canadian IsdTexas
34Gunter IsdTexas
35Aledo IsdTexas
36Tomball IsdTexas
37Mckinney IsdTexas
38Rockwall IsdTexas
39Jim Ned CisdTexas
40Montgomery IsdTexas
41Wink-Loving IsdTexas
42Brock IsdTexas
43Plains IsdTexas
44Midlothian IsdTexas
45Boerne IsdTexas
46Midway IsdTexas
47Katy IsdTexas
48Celina IsdTexas
49Grapevine-Colleyville IsdTexas
50Wimberley IsdTexas
51Alamo Heights IsdTexas
52Lackland IsdTexas
53Irion County IsdTexas
54Glasscock County IsdTexas
55Dodd City IsdTexas
56Shiner IsdTexas
57Wylie IsdTexas
58Muenster IsdTexas
59Vega IsdTexas
60Clear Creek IsdTexas
61Conroe IsdTexas
62Westbrook IsdTexas
63Salado IsdTexas
64Panhandle IsdTexas
65Shallowater IsdTexas
66Forney IsdTexas
67Liberty Hill IsdTexas
68Pleasant Grove IsdTexas
69Lago Vista IsdTexas
70Poth IsdTexas
71Round Top-Carmine IsdTexas
72Lewisville IsdTexas
73Lone Oak IsdTexas
74Sundown IsdTexas
75Knippa IsdTexas
76Bushland IsdTexas
77Borden County IsdTexas
78Johnson City IsdTexas
79College Station IsdTexas
80Lindsay IsdTexas
81China Spring IsdTexas
82Frenship IsdTexas
83Franklin IsdTexas
84Lindale IsdTexas
85Anna IsdTexas
86Caddo Mills IsdTexas
87Industrial IsdTexas
88Archer City IsdTexas
89Moulton IsdTexas
90Canyon IsdTexas
91Comal IsdTexas
92Royse City IsdTexas
93Forsan IsdTexas
94Thrall IsdTexas
95Grandview IsdTexas
96Water Valley IsdTexas
97Lake Dallas IsdTexas
98Needville IsdTexas
99Fort Bend IsdTexas
100Glen Rose IsdTexas


The following contributed to the ranking: student performance (math and reading test scores), dropout rates, school funding, and area poverty rates. Data was collected from a total of 9,577 school districts.

Top School Districts in Oregon, 2018

As home to the headquarters of Nike, Inc., and the high-tech companies based in the Silicon Forest, a hotbed of tech industry activity in the Portland metropolitan area, graduates of Oregon’s public school systems certainly have no shortage of career options once they work through university. It’s no surprise that some of Oregon’s best school districts are in the Portland area.

Riverdale School District, based seven miles south of Portland, is the state’s #1 system of schools. Comprising one K-8 grade school and one high school, the district has earned numerous national honors over the years, including a silver medal from U.S. News & World Report for Riverdale High School. It is also one of the richest in the nation.

Nearby Lake Oswego School District, a system of ten schools serving Lake Oswego, Oregon, ranks second. Test scores indicate that 84% of its students are proficient in reading, with 74% achieving proficiency in math.

Ranking #3 is Sherwood School District, comprising four elementary schools, two middle schools, and one high school in Sherwood, Oregon. Sherwood has been named one of the best places to live a number of times in various publications, including twice by Money Magazine.

West Linn-Wilsonville School District, a large system of sixteen schools southwest of Portland, places fourth in the ranking. The district’s student’s SAT scores rank among the best in the state, and the graduation rate regularly tops 90%.

Beaverton School District, serving Beaverton and several adjacent communities, ranks #5.

Top School Districts in Oregon, 2018

State RankSchool DistrictState
1Riverdale Sd 51JOregon
2Lake Oswego Sd 7JOregon
3Sherwood Sd 88JOregon
4West Linn-Wilsonville Sd 3JOregon
5Beaverton Sd 48JOregon
6Corvallis Sd 509JOregon
7Sisters Sd 6Oregon
8Ashland Sd 5Oregon
9Tigard-Tualatin Sd 23JOregon
10Portland Sd 1JOregon
11Bend-Lapine Administrative Sd 1Oregon
12Newberg Sd 29JOregon
13Blachly Sd 90Oregon
14Oregon City Sd 62Oregon
15Imbler Sd 11Oregon
16Eugene Sd 4JOregon
17Mcminnville Sd 40Oregon
18Marcola Sd 79JOregon
19North Santiam Sd 29JOregon
20Joseph Sd 6Oregon
21Scio Sd 95Oregon
22Banks Sd 13Oregon
23Oakland Sd 1Oregon
24North Clackamas Sd 12Oregon
25Colton Sd 53Oregon
26Cove Sd 15Oregon
27Astoria Sd 1Oregon
28Redmond Sd 2JOregon
29Enterprise Sd 21Oregon
30Scappoose Sd 1JOregon
31Yamhill Carlton Sd 1Oregon
32Lebanon Community Sd 9Oregon
33Santiam Canyon Sd 129JOregon
34Grants Pass Sd 7Oregon
35Estacada Sd 108Oregon
36Philomath Sd 17JOregon
37Perrydale Sd 21Oregon
38St Helens Sd 502Oregon
39Baker Sd 5JOregon
40North Douglas Sd 22Oregon
41Corbett Sd 39Oregon
42Hood River County SdOregon
43Mt Angel Sd 91Oregon
44Hillsboro Sd 1JOregon
45Gladstone Sd 115Oregon
46Sutherlin Sd 130Oregon
47Canby Sd 86Oregon
48Molalla River Sd 35Oregon
49Medford Sd 549COregon
50Athena-Weston Sd 29RjOregon
51Bethel Sd 52Oregon
52Salem-Keizer Sd 24JOregon
53Gresham-Barlow Sd 10JOregon
54Culver Sd 4Oregon
55Greater Albany Public Sd 8JOregon
56Hermiston Sd 8Oregon
57Stanfield Sd 61Oregon
58Central Point Sd 6Oregon
59Pilot Rock Sd 2Oregon
60Fern Ridge Sd 28JOregon
61Dallas Sd 2Oregon
62Neah-Kah-Nie Sd 56Oregon
63Monroe Sd 1JOregon
64Glide Sd 12Oregon
65Cascade Sd 5Oregon
66Lake County Sd 7Oregon
67Ione Sd R2Oregon
68Lowell Sd 71Oregon
69Clatskanie Sd 6JOregon
70Springfield Sd 19Oregon
71Seaside Sd 10Oregon
72Forest Grove Sd 15Oregon
73Sweet Home Sd 55Oregon
74Three Rivers/Josephine County SdOregon
75Rainier Sd 13Oregon
76La Grande Sd 1Oregon
77Pleasant Hill Sd 1Oregon
78Central Sd 13JOregon
79Pendleton Sd 16Oregon
80Coquille Sd 8Oregon
81Douglas County Sd 4Oregon
82Central Curry Sd 1Oregon
83Amity Sd 4JOregon
84Dufur Sd 29Oregon
85Creswell Sd 40Oregon
86North Bend Sd 13Oregon
87Tillamook Sd 9Oregon
88South Lane Sd 45J3Oregon
89David Douglas Sd 40Oregon
90Brookings-Harbor Sd 17COregon
91Junction City Sd 69Oregon
92Harrisburg Sd 7JOregon
93Winston-Dillard Sd 116Oregon
94Central Linn Sd 552Oregon
95Phoenix-Talent Sd 4Oregon
96Crook County SdOregon
97Warrenton-Hammond Sd 30Oregon
98Eagle Point Sd 9Oregon
99Harney County Sd 3Oregon
100Echo Sd 5Oregon


The following contributed to the ranking: student performance (math and reading test scores), dropout rates, school funding, and area poverty rates. Data was collected from a total of 9,577 school districts.

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Top School Districts in Montana, 2018

Montana’s wide open expanses of picturesque wilderness and fluffy, cloud-filled blue skies must make it difficult for teachers to keep students behind their desks until the last bell, yet judging from their academic performance, the state’s best school districts are able to do just that.

Ranking #1 overall is Sunburst Schools, a modest-sized district comprising one K-6 elementary and one combined 7-12 high school located in Sunburst, MT. Despite the fact that the community in which it is based has a population of just 338 as of 2016, Sunburst High School was nevertheless recognized as a bronze medal level school by U.S. News & World Report.

Second on the list is the Frenchtown School District, serving Frenchtown, MT, a community that--with its 1,825 inhabitants and four schools--is a bustling metropolis by Montana standards.

Placing third is Ennis Schools in Ennis, Montana. Despite its modest size, the district boasts thriving athletic and extracurricular programs.

Montana’s top five list is rounded out by two more small, yet well-staffed and spirited school districts, Florence-Carlton School District 15-6 (#4), and Townsend School District #1 (#5).

Top School Districts in Montana, 2018

State RankSchool DistrictState
1Sunburst K-12 SchoolsMontana
2Frenchtown K-12 SchoolsMontana
3Ennis K-12 SchoolsMontana
4Florence-Carlton K-12 SchlsMontana
5Townsend K-12 SchoolsMontana
6Plentywood K-12 SchoolsMontana
7Corvallis K-12 SchoolsMontana
8Malta K-12 SchoolsMontana
9Hamilton K-12 SchoolsMontana
10Scobey K-12 SchoolsMontana
11Baker K-12 SchoolsMontana
12Glasgow K-12 SchoolsMontana
13Superior K-12 SchoolsMontana
14Huntley Project K-12 SchoolsMontana
15Twin Bridges K-12 SchoolsMontana
16Libby K-12 SchoolsMontana
17Victor K-12 SchoolsMontana
18Darby K-12 SchoolsMontana
19St Ignatius K-12 SchoolsMontana


The following contributed to the ranking: student performance (math and reading test scores), dropout rates, school funding, and area poverty rates. Data was collected from a total of 9,577 school districts.

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Top School Districts in Missouri, 2018

Parents mulling over the best area of Missouri in which to raise their children need look no further than the communities of St. Louis County, as all of the state’s five best public school districts are located within its limits.

The #1 ranked public school system in Missouri is Ladue School District, administering four elementaries, one middle, and one high school in Ladue, MO, a small suburb of St. Louis with the highest median income of any city in Missouri. The district is among the elite in the state, with 82% of students achieving reading proficiency.

Placing second is the School District of Clayton, serving Clayton and parts of Richmond Heights and St. Louis City. Clayton High School has been repeatedly recognized by Newsweek as one of the nation’s best public high schools.

Ranking third is Lindbergh Schools, a system of six elementaries, two middle schools and one high school based in southwest St. Louis County. Lindbergh Senior High’s 96% graduation rate places it among the top high schools in the state.

Kirkwood School District, founded in 1865 and one of the oldest districts in the state, follows at #4. A planned suburb with a wonderful historic district, bustling farmer’s market, and tree-lined residential areas, Kirkwood is a great community in which to raise a family.

Brentwood School District, with its four high-achieving schools and early childhood center, rounds out the top five.

Top School Districts in Missouri, 2018

State RankSchool DistrictState
3Lindbergh SchoolsMissouri
4Kirkwood R-ViiMissouri
6Rockwood R-ViMissouri
7Parkway C-2Missouri
8Webster GrovesMissouri
9Otterville R-ViMissouri
10New HavenMissouri
11Liberty 53Missouri
12Nixa Public SchoolsMissouri
13Park HillMissouri
14Kearney R-IMissouri
15Blue Springs R-IvMissouri
16Blair Oaks R-IiMissouri
17North Platte Co. R-IMissouri
18Wentzville R-IvMissouri
19Francis Howell R-IiiMissouri
20Archie R-VMissouri
21Orchard Farm R-VMissouri
22Northeast Randolph Co. R-IvMissouri
23Adrian R-IiiMissouri
24Lee'S Summit R-ViiMissouri
25Platte Co. R-IiiMissouri
26Valley ParkMissouri
27Grain Valley R-VMissouri
28Fox C-6Missouri
29Maplewood-Richmond HeightsMissouri
30Mid-Buchanan Co. R-VMissouri
31Rock Port R-IiMissouri
32Festus R-ViMissouri
33West Platte Co. R-IiMissouri
34Braymer C-4Missouri
35St. Elizabeth R-IvMissouri
36Raymore-Peculiar R-IiMissouri
37Webb City R-ViiMissouri
38Mound City R-IiMissouri
39Knob Noster R-ViiiMissouri
40Windsor C-1Missouri
41Ft. Zumwalt R-IiMissouri
43Zalma R-VMissouri
44Affton 101Missouri
45Smithville R-IiMissouri
46Ozark R-ViMissouri
47North ShelbyMissouri
48Lone Jack C-6Missouri
49Wellington-Napoleon R-IxMissouri
50Southern Boone Co. R-IMissouri
51Meadville R-IvMissouri
52Santa Fe R-XMissouri
53Hardin-Central C-2Missouri
54Pattonville R-IiiMissouri
55Farmington R-ViiMissouri
56Chadwick R-IMissouri
57Ste. Genevieve Co. R-IiMissouri
58Grandview R-IiMissouri
59Scotland Co. R-IMissouri
60Fair Grove R-XMissouri
61Mehlville R-IxMissouri
62Osage Co. R-IiiMissouri
63Lawson R-XivMissouri
64Jackson R-IiMissouri
65Bell City R-IiMissouri
66Green Ridge R-ViiiMissouri
67Lathrop R-IiMissouri
68Oak Grove R-ViMissouri
69Crystal City 47Missouri
70Carl Junction R-IMissouri
71Waynesville R-ViMissouri
72Midway R-IMissouri
73Concordia R-IiMissouri
74St. James R-IMissouri
75Buchanan Co. R-IvMissouri
76Maysville R-IMissouri
77East Buchanan Co. C-1Missouri
78Oran R-IiiMissouri
79Rolla 31Missouri
80Willard R-IiMissouri
81Northwest R-IMissouri
82Centralia R-ViMissouri
83King City R-IMissouri
84Marion Co. R-IiMissouri
85Pleasant Hill R-IiiMissouri
86Hillsboro R-IiiMissouri
87Savannah R-IiiMissouri
88West St. Francois Co. R-IvMissouri
89Maryville R-IiMissouri
90Advance R-IvMissouri
91Warrensburg R-ViMissouri
92Kirksville R-IiiMissouri
93Desoto 73Missouri
94Cole Co. R-IMissouri
95Branson R-IvMissouri
96North Andrew Co. R-ViMissouri
97Adair Co. R-IiMissouri
98Palmyra R-IMissouri
99Leeton R-XMissouri


The following contributed to the ranking: student performance (math and reading test scores), dropout rates, school funding, and area poverty rates. Data was collected from a total of 9,577 school districts.

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Top School Districts in Mississippi, 2018

With its rich traditions of hearty southern cuisine and soulful delta blues and gospel music, and status as the birthplace of some of the most important American figures of the past century, including rock n’ roll pioneer Elvis Presley, media icon Oprah Winfrey, and legendary playwright Tennessee Williams, Mississippi has a lot to be proud of. The Mississippi Department of Education’s Office of School Improvement’s focus on raising the performance of the state’s public schools ensures that many more Mississippians will join past notable Mississippians in making a lasting impact on American culture.

Mississippi’s top public school system is the Madison County School District, with over 10,000 students in the communities of Flora, Madison, parts of Jackson and other areas of Madison County. The district’s impressive 85.6% graduation rate is well above the statewide average.

The Clinton Public School District in Clinton, MS places at #2 on the list. Due to the students’ proficiency in a broad range of subjects and high grad rate, CPSD earned an “A” accountability grade through the state’s Department of Education.

Ranking third is Pontotoc City School District, comprising two elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school. PCSD students regularly excel in a wide range of areas, earning their district the distinction of being “A” level.

The list of Mississippi’s top five school districts is filled out by Enterprise School District (#4), which received the Beacon Award at the 2018 at the 46th annual MSBA conference, followed by Lamar County School District, which received its first “A” rating for the 16-17 school year.

Top School Districts in Mississippi, 2018

State RankSchool DistrictState
1Madison County School DistrictMississippi
2Clinton Public School DistrictMississippi
3Pontotoc City SchoolsMississippi
4Enterprise School DistrictMississippi
5Lamar County School DistrictMississippi
6Rankin County School DistrictMississippi
7Desoto County School DistrictMississippi
8Petal School DistrictMississippi
9Oxford School DistrictMississippi
10Long Beach School DistrictMississippi
11Pass Christian Public School DistrictMississippi
12Tishomingo County Sp Mun Sch DistrictMississippi
13New Albany Public SchoolsMississippi
14Kosciusko School DistrictMississippi
15Ocean Springs School DistrictMississippi
16Hancock County School DistrictMississippi
17Pearl River County School DistrictMississippi
18Harrison County School DistrictMississippi
19Monroe County School DistrictMississippi
20Union Public School DistrictMississippi
21Lowndes County School DistrictMississippi
22Tupelo Public School DistrictMississippi
23Pearl Public School DistrictMississippi
24Jackson County School DistrictMississippi
25Senatobia Municipal School DistrictMississippi
26Lee County School DistrictMississippi
27Corinth School DistrictMississippi
28Alcorn School DistrictMississippi
29Pontotoc County School DistrictMississippi
30Newton County School DistrictMississippi
31Union County School DistrictMississippi
32Lauderdale County School DistrictMississippi
33Biloxi Public School DistrictMississippi
34George County School DistrictMississippi
35Booneville School DistrictMississippi
36Lafayette County School DistrictMississippi
37Webster County School DistrictMississippi
38Lawrence County School DistrictMississippi
39Stone County School DistrictMississippi
40Amory School DistrictMississippi
41Itawamba County School DistrictMississippi
42Bay St Louis Waveland School DistrictMississippi
43Neshoba County School DistrictMississippi
44Prentiss County School DistrictMississippi
45North Pike School DistrictMississippi
46Jones County School DistrictMississippi
47Grenada School DistrictMississippi
48Poplarville Separate School DistrictMississippi
49South Tippah School DistrictMississippi
50Lincoln County School DistrictMississippi
51Hinds County School DistrictMississippi
52Gulfport School DistrictMississippi
53Choctaw County School DistrictMississippi
54Smith County School DistrictMississippi
55Winona Separate School DistrictMississippi
56Baldwyn School DistrictMississippi
57Chickasaw County School DistrictMississippi
58Simpson County School DistrictMississippi
59Richton School DistrictMississippi
60Brookhaven School DistrictMississippi
61Calhoun County School DistrictMississippi
62Greene County School DistrictMississippi
63Water Valley School DistrictMississippi
64South Panola School DistrictMississippi
65Scott County School DistrictMississippi
66Columbia School DistrictMississippi
67Pascagoula School DistrictMississippi
68Forrest County School DistrictMississippi
69Tate County School DistrictMississippi
70Houston School DistrictMississippi
71North Tippah School DistrictMississippi
72Wayne County School DistrictMississippi
73Carroll County School DistrictMississippi
74Franklin County School DistrictMississippi
75Picayune School DistrictMississippi
76Louisville Municipal School DistrictMississippi
77Laurel School DistrictMississippi
78Marion County School DistrictMississippi
79South Delta School DistrictMississippi
80Vicksburg Warren School DistrictMississippi
81Cleveland School DistrictMississippi
82West Jasper Consolidated SchoolsMississippi
83Nettleton School DistrictMississippi
84East Jasper Consolidated Sch DistrictMississippi
85Jackson Public School DistrictMississippi
86Yazoo County School DistrictMississippi
87Forest Municipal School DistrictMississippi
88Jefferson Davis County School DistrictMississippi
89Quitman School DistrictMississippi
90Marshall County School DistrictMississippi
91Copiah County School DistrictMississippi
92Tunica County School DistrictMississippi
93Philadelphia Public School DistrictMississippi
94Benton County School DistrictMississippi
95Columbus Municipal School DistrictMississippi
96Okolona Separate School DistrictMississippi
97Greenwood Public School DistrictMississippi
98Wilkinson County School DistrictMississippi
99Hattiesburg Public School DistrictMississippi
100Canton Public School DistrictMississippi


The following contributed to the ranking: student performance (math and reading test scores), dropout rates, school funding, and area poverty rates. Data was collected from a total of 9,577 school districts.

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Top School Districts in South Carolina, 2018

Known for its long, beautiful coastline, historical landmarks dating back to colonial America, and mixture of cultures, South Carolina also has a number of excellent public school districts serving the state’s youth.

The best public school system in South Carolina is Fort Mill School District, one of four districts serving York County (and the first of two in the state’s top five). Comprising nine elementary schools, five middle schools, and two high schools (with one more set to open in August 2019), Fort Mills Schools is smaller than most in the state, yet also one of the fastest growing. The district earned the honor of accreditation by AdvancED, a distinction only bestowed upon districts meeting a high standard of academic excellence.

South Carolina’s #2 ranked school system is Clover School District, made up of 12 schools also serving York County. CSD outperforms a majority of the state’s school districts, with students achieving 70% proficiency in math.

The third spot in the ranking belongs to District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties. Nationally renowned as an excellent school system, a remarkable 17 students from School District Five’s four high schools recently earned the distinction of becoming National Merit Scholarship finalists.

Rounding out South Carolina’s top five school districts are Dorchester School District Two (#4), comprising 25 schools based in Summerville, SC, and Lexington School District 1 (#5) of Lexington County, SC.

Top School Districts in South Carolina, 2018

State RankSchool DistrictState
1York 04South Carolina
2York 02South Carolina
3Lexington 05South Carolina
4Dorchester 02South Carolina
5Lexington 01South Carolina
6Anderson 01South Carolina
7Spartanburg 01South Carolina
8Charleston 01South Carolina
9Spartanburg 05South Carolina
10Anderson 04South Carolina
11Anderson 02South Carolina
12Spartanburg 02South Carolina
13Greenville 01South Carolina
14Abbeville 60South Carolina
15Pickens 01South Carolina
16Berkeley 01South Carolina
17Horry 01South Carolina
18Anderson 05South Carolina
19Richland 02South Carolina
20York 03South Carolina
21Beaufort 01South Carolina
22Spartanburg 03South Carolina
23Spartanburg 04South Carolina
24Edgefield 01South Carolina
25Kershaw 01South Carolina
26Oconee 01South Carolina
27Lancaster 01South Carolina
28Greenwood 52South Carolina
29York 01South Carolina
30Florence 01South Carolina
31Lexington 02South Carolina
32Spartanburg 06South Carolina
33Clarendon 03South Carolina
34Spartanburg 07South Carolina
35Dorchester 04South Carolina
36Laurens 56South Carolina
37Aiken 01South Carolina
38Laurens 55South Carolina
39Saluda 01South Carolina
40Bamberg 01South Carolina
41Anderson 03South Carolina
42Georgetown 01South Carolina
43Chesterfield 01South Carolina
44Richland 01South Carolina
45Calhoun 01South Carolina
46Newberry 01South Carolina
47Cherokee 01South Carolina
48Union 01South Carolina
49Dillon 03South Carolina
50Greenwood 51South Carolina
51Darlington 01South Carolina
52Lexington 03South Carolina
53Barnwell 29South Carolina
54Florence 05South Carolina
55Hampton 01South Carolina
56Greenwood 50South Carolina
57Mccormick 01South Carolina
58Florence 02South Carolina
59Clarendon 02South Carolina
60Lexington 04South Carolina
61Fairfield 01South Carolina
62Dillon 04South Carolina
63Colleton 01South Carolina
64Chester 01South Carolina
65Orangeburg 05South Carolina
66Barnwell 45South Carolina
67Florence 03South Carolina
68Orangeburg 04South Carolina
69Marlboro 01South Carolina
70Clarendon 01South Carolina
71Orangeburg 03South Carolina
72Barnwell 19South Carolina
73Williamsburg 01South Carolina
74Florence 04South Carolina
75Hampton 02South Carolina
76Jasper 01South Carolina
77Bamberg 02South Carolina
78Allendale 01South Carolina
79Lee 01South Carolina


The following contributed to the ranking: student performance (math and reading test scores), dropout rates, school funding, and area poverty rates. Data was collected from a total of 9,577 school districts.

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Top School Districts in South Dakota, 2018

The Mount Rushmore State is no slouch when it comes to public school education, placing in the top 20 in both college readiness and NAEP math scores in U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the fifty states in Pre-K-12 education. South Dakota’s finest school districts compare favorably with the best in the nation.

The state’s top school district is comprised of one school, Chester Area School in Chester, SD with elementary, middle, and high school branches. According to, a remarkable 95% of the elementary school students are proficient in mathematics.

Number two in the ranking is Parker School District, another one school district located in Parker, SD. The district is the only school district in South Dakota to receive the Distinguished School District award for seven straight years, and Parker Elementary earned the National Blue Ribbon Award in 2012.

Warner School District, a small but excellent school district serving the town that lends it its name comes in at #3.

At #4 is Groton Area School District, comprising one elementary school and one combined middle school/high school in Groton, SD. Groton’s two schools regularly deliver a high level of academic excellence, with Groton Area Elementary taking home the National Blue Ribbon School Award in 2012.

Closing out the top five is Harrisburg School District, larger than the preceding districts on the list with six elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school serving Lincoln County, SD.

Top School Districts in South Dakota, 2018

State RankSchool DistrictState
1Chester Area School District 39-1South Dakota
2Parker School District 60-4South Dakota
3Warner School District 06-5South Dakota
4Groton Area School District 06-6South Dakota
5Harrisburg School District 41-2South Dakota
6Plankinton School District 01-1South Dakota
7Arlington School District 38-1South Dakota
8Brandon Valley School District 49-2South Dakota
9Dakota Valley School District 61-8South Dakota
10Alcester-Hudson School District 61-1South Dakota
11Elk Point-Jefferson School District 61-7South Dakota
12Webster Area 18-5South Dakota
13Ethan School District 17-1South Dakota
14Deubrook Area School District 05-6South Dakota
15Brookings School District 05-1South Dakota
16Montrose School District 43-2South Dakota
17Mitchell School District 17-2South Dakota
18Parkston School District 33-3South Dakota
19Garretson School District 49-4South Dakota
20Howard School District 48-3South Dakota
21De Smet School District 38-2South Dakota
22Hamlin School District 28-3South Dakota
23Pierre School District 32-2South Dakota
24Irene - Wakonda School District 13-3South Dakota
25Wall School District 51-5South Dakota
26Gettysburg School District 53-1South Dakota
27Canton School District 41-1South Dakota
28Platte - Geddes School District 11-5South Dakota
29Beresford School District 61-2South Dakota
30Sioux Falls School District 49-5South Dakota
31Lake Preston School District 38-3South Dakota
32Faulkton Area Schools 24-4South Dakota
33Milbank School District 25-4South Dakota
34Dell Rapids School District 49-3South Dakota
35Agar-Blunt-Onida School District 58-3South Dakota
36Miller 29-4South Dakota
37Watertown School District 14-4South Dakota
38Rosholt School District 54-4South Dakota
39Burke School District 26-2South Dakota
40Aberdeen School District 06-1South Dakota
41Sioux Valley School District 05-5South Dakota
42Lennox School District 41-4South Dakota
43Tea Area School District 41-5South Dakota
44Langford Area 45-5South Dakota
45Meade School District 46-1South Dakota
46Britton-Hecla School District 45-4South Dakota
47Madison Central School District 39-2South Dakota
48West Central School District 49-7South Dakota
49Vermillion School District 13-1South Dakota
50Bridgewater-Emery 30-3South Dakota
51Redfield School District 56-4South Dakota
52Yankton School District 63-3South Dakota
53Baltic School District 49-1South Dakota
54Bon Homme School District 04-2South Dakota
55Tri-Valley School District 49-6South Dakota
56Avon School District 04-1South Dakota
57Menno School District 33-2South Dakota
58Kimball School District 07-2South Dakota
59Mccook Central School District 43-7South Dakota
60Castlewood School District 28-1South Dakota
61Ipswich Public School District 22-6South Dakota
62Haakon School District 27-1South Dakota
63Flandreau School District 50-3South Dakota
64Deuel School District 19-4South Dakota
65Lead-Deadwood School District 40-1South Dakota
66Chamberlain School District 07-1South Dakota
67Gregory School District 26-4South Dakota
68Spearfish School District 40-2South Dakota
69Custer School District 16-1South Dakota
70Douglas School District 51-1South Dakota
71Stanley County School District 57-1South Dakota
72Leola School District 44-2South Dakota
73Colome Consolidated 59-3South Dakota
74Rapid City Area School District 51-4South Dakota
75Newell School District 09-2South Dakota
76Hanson School District 30-1South Dakota
77Highmore-Harrold 34-2South Dakota
78Hill City School District 51-2South Dakota
79Lemmon School District 52-4South Dakota
80Tripp-Delmont School District 33-5South Dakota
81Scotland School District 04-3South Dakota
82Mount Vernon School District 17-3South Dakota
83Northwestern Area School District 56-7South Dakota
84New Underwood School District 51-3South Dakota
85Hot Springs School District 23-2South Dakota
86Freeman School District 33-1South Dakota
87Colman-Egan School District 50-5South Dakota
88Wilmot School District 54-7South Dakota
89Gayville-Volin School District 63-1South Dakota
90Wolsey Wessington School District 02-6South Dakota
91Mobridge-Pollock 62-6South Dakota
92Huron School District 02-2South Dakota
93Clark School District 12-2South Dakota
94Dupree School District 64-2South Dakota
95Wagner Community School District 11-4South Dakota
96Timber Lake School District 20-3South Dakota
97Elkton School District 05-3South Dakota
98Willow Lake School District 12-3South Dakota
99Viborg-Hurley School District 60-6South Dakota
100Wessington Springs School District 36-2South Dakota


The following contributed to the ranking: student performance (math and reading test scores), dropout rates, school funding, and area poverty rates. Data was collected from a total of 9,577 school districts.

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