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 Niche.com, 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

Methodology

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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