Top 100 School Districts – 2019

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What makes a great school district? Can a school district actually influence the success of its students? These are questions that parents, educators, and politicians have asked for years. Of course, gifted students can often overcome any challenges that are put in their way. However, is there anything school districts can do to push their students over the top when compared with other districts?

After taking a deep dive into the data and looking at school districts around the country, we have found some interesting trends that may suggest what factors play a role in making a school district one of the top districts in the country and what may leave some districts behind. While grades and test scores are important, there is more to a great school district than just the numbers on a report card.

Does Population Play a Role?

One of the most noticeable facts about the top districts in the country is that 8 of the top 10 districts in the country are located in California, the most populated state in the Union. Further, most of those districts are located in major cities or suburbs of major cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Santa Barbara.

Does simply living in or near a big city mean that the school districts are automatically better? While that’s not necessarily true for all major cities, it does appear to be an advantage. It really boils down to dollars and cents. Areas with a larger population have a larger tax base to draw from and, in turn, have more money per student to dedicate to funding school districts. This is an important factor in our rankings and it also influences other factors that we consider for the rankings.

Simply put, districts with more money can buy better equipment and build better facilities. These districts can hire more teachers to keep the student to teacher ratio low, they can afford to hire experienced teachers that demand a higher salary.

Dollars and Cents Part Two

Money isn’t everything but it sure is a good indicator about whether or not a school district will score highly. Having a large population is one thing but what is the state of that population? Wealthier cities not only have a large tax base to draw from but their tax base earns more income and, in turn, pays higher taxes. This means more money is available to help influence many of the important rankings we consider like funding per student, quality of teachers, and student to teacher ratio.

It should come as no surprise that cities appearing on the top 100 list like San Francisco, Fairfield, Santa Rosa, Honolulu, and New York also appear in the list of the wealthiest cities in America. Therefore, it should also come as no surprise that the poorest cities in America do not appear on the list of the top school districts in the country.

Do Educated Adults Raise Educated Children?

Of course, schools can’t do it all on their own. Home life can play a major role in a child’s success at school as well as later in life. Therefore, it would stand to reason that children raised in a home or city with a large number of college or university educated adults would be more driven to complete their schooling and move onto higher education.

Graduation rates play a major role in scoring school districts. After all, school districts can pour money into building fancy facilities, hiring the best staff, and keeping student to teacher ratios low but if they are not graduating a high number of students that all of the money has gone to waste.

With this in mind, it comes as no shock that some of the most educated cities in America also appear in the top school districts list. Conversely, none of the least educated cities in America appear in the list of top school districts.

There could be two reasons for this. First of all, kids with examples of educated individuals at home or in their community may see the benefits of completing high school right before their eyes. Individuals with college or university degrees are 117 times more likely to be multi-millionaires and college-educated individuals are expected to earn nearly a million dollars more than those who don’t attend college.

Secondly, kids raised in homes where adults may not have achieved higher education don’t necessarily have a worse home life. However, they may see their parents achieving good careers despite a lack of higher education or even completing high school. There may not be that push to follow in their parents’ footsteps and go to college or university. They may believe that a high quality of life can be achieved in spite of education level.

While the level of education in a community does not necessarily indicate students will graduate at a higher level, it would appear that cities with a lack of higher education degrees do not score as highly in our rankings. With graduation levels being an important part of that scoring process, it begs the question as to why some districts perform so well in this area while others do not.

The Rural vs Urban Divide

We mentioned earlier that highly populated cities tend to appear more frequently on the list than rural communities. While this may largely be due to the tax base size funding the school districts, could there be more at play?

According to census data, urban communities have a higher median household income than rural communities. Combine that with the population factor and it’s easy to see why urban school districts have more funding to affect many of the factors we consider for our rankings.

Could this be a snowball effect that has been building over time? Every year this divide could be growing for a number of reasons. Wealthy urban school districts will graduate more students who, in turn, will seek higher education at greater rates, earn more money, and fund more of their tax dollars into school systems for the next generation.

There is also the phenomenon of people moving from rural areas to urban areas. In fact, the 50 largest cities in the United States have all experienced population growth in recent years. Every single one of these large cities have grown as people move into cities for better job opportunities, a higher quality of life, and perhaps even better school districts for their children.

With these statistics in mind, it’s understandable why urban school districts appear to be outperforming rural districts. Furthermore, it would appear to suggest that the trend could continue which would only widen the gap between urban and rural school districts and increase the pace at which this gap continues to grow.

Do Politics Play a Role?

The question must be asked whether conservative vs liberal states plays any role in determining whether a school district will appear on the list of top districts. Some people may assume that a blue state may perhaps collect more taxes and, in turn, fund districts more generously to achieve higher scores and rankings. We looked at the most recent presidential election to compare the red and blue states to see if there is any sort of trend.

While blue state California appears to dominate the top of the list, the distribution beyond that appears to be fairly even between red and blue states. Texas, for example, appears a number of times in the top 100. Other red states like Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania also appear several times in the top 100 list. There doesn’t appear to be a clear trend where politics would play a role in determining whether a state has more school districts in the top 100. Conversely, some red and blue states were entirely absent from the top 100 list meaning that politics also wouldn’t appear to play a role in preventing a state from making the top 100 list.

What Makes a Great School District?

Our methodology considers a number of factors when scoring and ranking school districts. Strong graduation rates, the total number of students, high teacher quality, high school funding per student, and high test scores all positively affect a district’s score while high student to teacher ratios can negatively affect a school’s rating.

What influences all of these factors? There’s no one single factor to point at but it largely boils down to money. Districts with more students and higher funding per student would theoretically be able to hire better teachers, hire more teachers, and positively influence test scores and graduation rates using those methods. This is not to say that poorly scoring school districts necessarily hire bad teachers or deliver poor test scores consistently across the board but there is a definite visible trend.

Population also appears to play a role. More people means more students and tax revenue to fund school districts which, again, can positively affect many of the factors we consider when scoring and ranking school districts.

Is there a way to bridge the gap between the districts in the top 100 and the districts that fail to make the grade? Without some kind of redistribution of funding from populated, wealthy areas to rural, poorer communities, it would appear that it may be harder for rural school districts to crack the top 100 list despite their best efforts.

However, while rural districts may not be able to achieve the level of funding that urban districts enjoy, they can influence some factors in spite of this. Keeping student to teacher ratios low could strongly affect scores in that area of our methodology and perhaps increase scores in other areas like test scores and graduation rates. It’s unlikely we will see rural districts take over the top of the list any time soon but there is nothing saying that these districts cannot make improvements and challenge for a spot in the top 100 despite the clear funding challenges they face.

After all, for all the money talk, a great school district is built on people. The students and teachers in the district are what ultimately determines if a district is successful or not. Dedicated teachers, hard-working students, and passionate administration are all things that money can’t buy.

Top 100 School Districts in America in 2019

RankSchool DistrictCityStateCounty
1San Mateo County Office Of EducationRedwood CityCaliforniaSan Mateo County
2San Francisco County Office Of EducationSan FranciscoCaliforniaSan Francisco County
3Santa Barbara County Office Of EducationSanta BarbaraCaliforniaSanta Barbara County
4Los Angeles UnifiedLos AngelesCaliforniaLos Angeles County
5San Diego County Office Of EducationSan DiegoCaliforniaSan Diego County
6Marin County Office Of EducationSan RafaelCaliforniaMarin County
7Sonoma County Office Of EducationSanta RosaCaliforniaSonoma County
8DadeMiamiFloridaMiami-Dade County
9Imperial County Office Of EducationEl CentroCaliforniaImperial County
10City Of Chicago Sd 299ChicagoIllinoisCook County
11Clark County School DistrictLas VegasNevadaClark County
12BrowardFort LauderdaleFloridaBroward County
13Tehama County Department Of EducationRed BluffCaliforniaTehama County
14Fairfax Co Pblc SchsFalls ChurchVirginiaFairfax County
15Intermediate School District 287PlymouthMinnesotaHennepin County
16Mcmullen County IsdTildenTexasMcMullen County
17Houston IsdHoustonTexasHarris County
18Copper Country IsdHancockMichiganHoughton County
19Eaton ResaCharlotteMichiganEaton County
20Eastern Upper Peninsula IsdSault S MarieMichiganChippewa County
21HillsboroughTampaFloridaHillsborough County
22Kings County Office Of EducationHanfordCaliforniaKings County
23OrangeOrlandoFloridaOrange County
24San Luis Obispo County Office Of EducationSan Luis ObispoCaliforniaSan Luis Obispo County
25Clinton County ResaSaint JohnsMichiganClinton County
26Palm BeachWest Palm BeachFloridaPalm Beach County
27Glasscock County IsdGarden CityTexasGlasscock County
28Dallas IsdDallasTexasDallas County
29Montgomery County Public SchoolsRockvilleMarylandMontgomery County
30Hawaii Department Of EducationHonoluluHawaiiHonolulu County
31Placer County Office Of EducationAuburnCaliforniaPlacer County
32Rankin IsdRankinTexasUpton County
33Gwinnett CountyLawrencevilleGeorgiaGwinnett County
34Wake County SchoolsCaryNorth CarolinaWake County
35Cypress-fairbanks IsdHoustonTexasHarris County
36Sutter County Office Of EducationYuba CityCaliforniaSutter County
37Los Angeles County Office Of EducationDowneyCaliforniaLos Angeles County
38Solano County Office Of EducationFairfieldCaliforniaSolano County
39Northside IsdSan AntonioTexasBexar County
40Charlotte-mecklenburg SchoolsCharlotteNorth CarolinaMecklenburg County
41Gratiot-isabella ResdIthacaMichiganGratiot County
42Katy IsdKatyTexasFort Bend County
43Prince William Co Pblc SchsManassasVirginiaPrince William County
44Loudoun Co Pblc SchsAshburnVirginiaLoudoun County
45Livingston EsaHowellMichiganLivingston County
46San Diego UnifiedSan DiegoCaliforniaSan Diego County
47Austin IsdAustinTexasTravis County
48Frisco IsdFriscoTexasCollin County
49DuvalJacksonvilleFloridaDuval County
50Fort Bend IsdSugar LandTexasFort Bend County
51Jericho Union Free School DistrictJerichoNew YorkNassau County
52Va Beach City Pblc SchsVirginia BeachVirginiaVirginia Beach city
53City On A Hill Charter Public School Circuit Street (districBostonMassachusettsSuffolk County
54Minuteman Regional Vocational TechnicalLexingtonMassachusettsMiddlesex County
55Irion County IsdMertzonTexasIrion County
56Karnes City IsdKarnes CityTexasKarnes County
57Concord-carlisleConcordMassachusettsMiddlesex County
58Van Buren IsdLawrenceMichiganVan Buren County
59Lake And Peninsula Borough School DistrictKing SalmonArkansasBristol Bay Borough
60Plano IsdPlanoTexasCollin County
61Humboldt County Office Of EducationEurekaCaliforniaHumboldt County
62Stanislaus County Office Of EducationModestoCaliforniaStanislaus County
63Cobb CountyMariettaGeorgiaCobb County
64Essex North Shore Agricultural And Technical School DistrictHathorneMassachusettsEssex County
65North East IsdSan AntonioTexasBexar County
66Northeast Metro 916White Bear LakeMinnesotaRamsey County
67Lenawee IsdAdrianMichiganLenawee County
68Conroe IsdConroeTexasMontgomery County
69Byram Hills Central School DistrictArmonkNew YorkWestchester County
70Southern Worcester County Regional Vocational TechnicalCharltonMassachusettsWorcester County
71Wexford-missaukee IsdCadillacMichiganWexford County
72Lewisville IsdLewisvilleTexasDenton County
73Round Rock IsdRound RockTexasWilliamson County
74Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational TechnicalUptonMassachusettsWorcester County
75Mastery Chs - Lenfest CampusPhiladelphiaPennsylvaniaPhiladelphia County
76Assabet Valley Regional Vocational TechnicalMarlboroughMassachusettsMiddlesex County
77Fort Worth IsdFort WorthTexasTarrant County
78Allegan Area Educational Service AgencyAlleganMichiganAllegan County
79Cheb-otsego-presque Isle EsdIndian RiverMichiganCheboygan County
80San Bernardino County Office Of EducationSan BernardinoCaliforniaSan Bernardino County
81North Shore Central School DistrictSea CliffNew YorkNassau County
82Syosset Central School DistrictSyossetNew YorkNassau County
83Tuscola IsdCaroMichiganTuscola County
84Locust Valley Central School DistrictLocust ValleyNew YorkNassau County
85Sturgis Charter Public (district)HyannisMassachusettsBarnstable County
86Washtenaw IsdAnn ArborMichiganWashtenaw County
87PinellasLargoFloridaPinellas County
88Baltimore County Public SchoolsTowsonMarylandBaltimore County
89New Trier Twp Hsd 203NorthfieldIllinoisCook County
90Chesterfield Co Pblc SchsChesterfieldVirginiaChesterfield County
91Martha's VineyardVineyard HavenMassachusettsDukes County
92Highland Park IsdDallasTexasDallas County
93Borden County IsdGailTexasBorden County
94Prince George's County Public SchoolsUpper MarlboroMarylandPrince George's County
95Falls City IsdFalls CityTexasKarnes County
96Shasta County Office Of EducationReddingCaliforniaShasta County
97Klein IsdKleinTexasHarris County
98Jefferson CountyLouisvilleKentuckyJefferson County
99Lincoln-sudburySudburyMassachusettsMiddlesex County
100Norfolk County AgriculturalWalpoleMassachusettsNorfolk County

Did your district make the list?

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Most Bullied States in America – 2019

Bullying is a pervasive problem that can appear in schools, workplaces, and even public spaces. The effects of bullying can be short term and long term, following people long after the occurrences of bullying have actually taken place with dire consequences.

While all states have implemented some kind of anti-bullying law, there are still many high-profile cases of bullying leading to suicide attempts among youth. The prevalence of cyberbullying makes it challenging for adults and educators to monitor bullying and gives youths unlimited access to their victims at all hours of the day. Cyberbullying can also fall in a grey area outside of school bullying policies and procedures.

Ultimately bullying is a quality of life concern and there are some shocking statistics that show just how devastating bullying can be.

  • Bullying, both those being bullied and those doing the bullying, leads to an increase in suicidal behavior

  • As many as 1 in 3 students report being bullied

  • Public health experts have called for bullying to be declared as a public health crisis

  • Bullying can lead to changes in eating habits, sleep disruption, poor school performance, chronic depression, self-harm, among many other consequences

  • Bullies can also experience difficulties in life including increased risk of substance abuse, future spousal or child abuse, challenges with building relationships, and more


Despite many changes, bullying has proven to be a challenging teenage crisis to manage in many states. Even as states have implemented new laws like the Missouri Cyberbullying Law and the Tennessee Anti-Bullying Law, there is still a clear problem with bullying that has not been eliminated.

Louisiana, for example, still leads the nation in incidents of bullying with nearly 1 in 4 students reporting being bullied and a staggering 1 in 10 students reporting being threatened or harmed with a weapon at school. Other states that have previously ranked poorly like Arkansas and Mississippi have failed to show much improvement with regards to their ranking on the list.

bullied states-heatmap

The data gathered also shows that many of the states struggling with bullying on school property are also seeing that problem extend to the digital world. The states with the most students reporting being bullied online are the same states that tend to rank amongst the highest for students reporting being bullied at school.

electronically bullied
harrassment threats
teachers injury
threatened weapon
physical fight

Ranking of the most bullied states in America in 2019

2District of Columbia
14Rhode Island
19West Virginia
20South Carolina
28North Carolina
30New York
31New Mexico
32South Dakota
37New Hampshire
43New Jersey
51North Dakota


There are a number of metrics used to create the rankings for most bullied states. Each metric fits within a group of similar metrics and that group is given a weighting which is as follows:

  • Bullying occurrence score – 50%

  • School violence score – 25%

  • Bullying impact score – 20%

  • State bullying laws – 5%

After the weightings have been evaluated, each state is left with a bullying score. The states with the highest scores have the largest challenges with bullying currently.

Insights from data

There are a number of important insights that can be drawn from the bullying data collected. This can help indicate the trends regarding bullying and maybe even identify states where efforts are proving to be successful for other states to duplicate in their own communities.

Has it gotten better or worse?

An initial look at the rankings and scores seems to indicate that the fight against bullying is proving to be ineffective. Some states like Louisiana remain near the top of the list for most bullied states as they have in the past. For a few states, the scores have been trending even worse over time despite new laws and awareness campaigns aimed at bullying.

However, give the list more than a cursory look and it’s possible to see some positives as states work hard to address the challenges presented by bullying. Idaho is one example, moving from their position as the second most bullied state to find themselves in the middle of the rankings. West Virginia also made a similar move. In fact, aside from the topmost bullied states, other states have appeared to make important strides in reducing bullying in their state.

What can be attributed to this change? It may be hard to pick out any one reason but many states have stepped up enforcement when it comes to bullying. Take Missouri, for example. The state has made it a felony to bully someone and take charge of school bullying policies and procedures by making it mandatory for schools to report cases of bullying to the authorities.

California and North Carolina have gone a step further with legislation to target cyberbullying. Students can face significant fines and jail time even if their bullying extends beyond school property and into the online domain. Of course, laws cannot singlehandedly solve these deep issues as shown in Louisiana which also adopted laws addressing bullying in classrooms and online. Clearly, laws are just one piece of the puzzle.

Can AI prevent cyberbullying?

Artificial intelligence is a buzzword being used a lot for everything from chatbots to diagnosing medical conditions to fighting bullying. In fact, Instagram announced in late 2018 that they would be implementing AI to help combat bullying on their platform.

The feature promises to proactively detect bullying in photos so that adults can quickly step in and stop the behavior before it progresses. Other apps for different social media platforms have been developed with varying degrees of success. Using AI, moderators can be notified of potential bullying much faster than if humans were to manually review all posts and comments.

Of course, technology can not do the job on its own. Most experts and bullying resources believe that stopping bullying begins with better education, communication, and understanding. Combined with AI, a complete anti-bullying strategy could prove to be successful.

Tips to getting rid of trolls

Bullying has been around long before the Internet and it may continue to exist in some form despite the best efforts of educators, parents, and artificial intelligence. Here are some tips that teenagers can use online when they feel they are being bullied by trolls:

  • Block and report offending users

  • Share bullying incidents with trusted adults

  • Document cyberbullying with screenshots

  • Watch for signs of cyberbullying in youth like depression, changes in device use, and emotional changes

For further reading

Many of the resources below can help educators, parents, and teens better understand the consequences of bullying, how to identify the signs of bullying, and how to prevent bullying in classrooms as well as online.

U.S. Prison Population vs. The World: Statistics and Insights

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There have been a lot of hot button political issues in the United States in recent years. These stories dominate the news cycle and then make way for the next big story. But one topic in particular has been slowly bubbling just below the surface for many years: the rate of incarceration in the United States. 

Everyone from political candidates to celebrities like Kim Kardashian have taken up the incarceration rate in the United States as their personal pet cause. 

So, why has this become such a major issue for some, and what has happened to bring the discussion to this point?

Like many complex political and social issues, there is no one cause that anyone can point to the number of people who are currently incarcerated in the United States. Rather, this is a challenge that has been created over time as a result of a number of laws, social changes, and policy directives from government. Some may even wonder if this is even really a crisis at all. 

When comparing the US prison population vs the world, is there much of a difference to note?

Politicians from both parties have often quoted Bureau of Justice statistics that the United States, despite having only about 5% of the world’s population, is home to nearly a quarter of the world’s prisoners. Hillary Clinton mentioned this statistic several times in the run up to her presidential run. Republican Rand Paul has also made similar claims in the past. And, for the most part, these numbers are fairly accurate according to The Washington Post.

Clearly, the imprisonment rate in the United States is disproportionate to the total population. If it were to be assumed that people around the world commit crimes at a relatively similar rate, then it would stand to reason that the United States should only be home to about 5% of the world’s prison population. 

So why are crime rates - and the numbers - so out of line? And, more importantly, what can be done to change this?  Or, for that matter, does anything even need to be done?

This article is going to take a deeper look at incarceration rates by country to see where other countries rank, what could be contributing to such a high incarceration rate, and what other countries are doing differently than the United States to keep their prison and jail populations low.

Important statistics to consider

When looking simply at prison population totals by country, it is easy to see that the United States is not in good company. Just in terms of real numbers without accounting for per capita totals, the United States leads the list by a hefty margin with over 2 million people currently incarcerated. 

Next on the list is China with over 1.5 million people in prison. As the most populous country on the planet, it would be expected that China should be near the top of the list. 

However, it should also be noted that China is widely criticized for taking drastic steps including imprisoning journalists who go against the communist regime’s narrative, building detention camps for Muslimsdetaining Canadian citizens in the midst of a legal dispute between the countries governments, and arresting political dissidents at a rate that leads the world.

After China on the list of prisoner totals comes Russia. This is another country known for jailing journalists, arresting political dissidents, and even making laws against “gay propaganda.” Following Russia on this list are Brazil, India, and Mexico with their own unique challenges regarding human rights and incarceration.

Of course, prison population totals only tells a part of the story. It stands to reason that countries with higher populations will, in turn, have higher prison populations. Therefore, an incarceration rate per 100,000 people is a statistic often used to help analyze which counties are actually jailing people at a much higher rate than their peers. 

Even when sorting using this method, the United States still leads the world in incarceration rates with 737 people in prison per 100,000 citizens. Russia is second on the list with 615 and then there is a noticeable drop off with countries like Ukraine, South Africa, and Poland on the list.

Many people point to drug offenses and the War on Drugs, which was started by Richard Nixon, as a cause of the high mass incarceration rates in the United States. In fact, in the last 40 years, the prison population total in the United States has increased nearly 600%, while the overall population of the United States has only increased 51%. That is a drastic change that directly coincides with the beginning of the War on Drugs.

With the War on Drugs came many mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug-related crimes. And, according to the United States Sentencing Commission, mandatory minimum sentencing laws have had a significant impact on the size of the overall prison population in the United States. 

Many critics of mandatory minimum sentences believe that this policy unfairly imprisons non-violent drug offenders and fails to address the root cause of drug crime. In addition, it can also lead to a first-time offender being sentenced the same way that a repeat offender would be sentenced. 

With mandatory minimums, there is no room for creative sentencing that may help ensure offenders get the help they need to stay away from a life of crime.

Many also point to a racial disparity in prison populations to argue that there may be racial bias present when sentencing. For example, African Americans are jailed at a rate 5 times higher than whites and, despite only making up 32% of the population in the United States, African Americans and Hispanics make up 56% of the prison population total. 

This racial bias is partially confirmed by a former Nixon advisor, who said this in a 1994 interview:

“We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

By looking at the clear statistics showing the US prison population vs the world and considering the factors like the War on Drugs that may have contributed to this, people can begin to get a grasp on why the United States is home to such a disproportionately high number of prisoners. But these basic statistics do not tell the full story. There are other smaller factors that must also be looked at.

Recidivism rates in the United States

One basic way to judge whether a sentencing and prison system is working is the rates of recidivism. This shows how many people end up back in prison after being released for their first sentence. Essentially, it tells people whether the prison system is reforming people or if it is only continuing the cycle of crime and incarceration.

The rate of recidivism in the United States is 70% within 5 years. Simply put, 70% of freed inmates will be arrested again within 5 years. This is in stark contrast to Norway, which boasts the lowest recidivism rates in the world at just 20% within 5 years. 

What is the cause of this massive difference? Norway puts a heavy emphasis on rehabilitation. Inmates are given opportunities to train and learn new skills so that they can be better positioned for success when released. Prisoners have enclosed washrooms within their cells, excellent workout facilities, and on-site medical access. 

American prisons also claim to rehabilitate rather than punish but there are some policies like solitary confinement suggest there is still much work to be done. Prisoners in some states can be made to work on factory lines during their sentence for far less than minimum wage. In other states, some felons are unable to get back some basic rights like the ability to vote, even after they have served their time. These challenges can make it difficult to integrate back into society and, ultimately, may contribute to increased recidivism rates.

Crime begins early

There are some interesting juvenile incarceration statistics that may play a role in the significant incarceration rate in the United States. For starters, the United States has the most imprisoned minors of any country in the world with 60,000 in juvenile detention facilities and 95,000 in adult facilities. 

In addition, studies have shown that up to 57% of juvenile offenders will re-offend in adulthood. With the high rates of recidivism among adult offenders discussed above, the significant imprisonment of minors may be a starting point for many long-time offenders who are continuously in and out of the prison system throughout their lives.

Not all juvenile offenders may end up in prison facilities for minor crimes like petty vandalism. However, intervention is an important tool to ensure that young offenders have positive outcomes later in life. 

Studies have shown that treatments like mental health counseling can greatly improve future results for juvenile offenders and keep them out of the prison system. Unfortunately, these services are not always available or affordable for those who need them. As a result, important intervention opportunities may be missed and youth criminals may eventually graduate to more serious crimes throughout their teenage and adult years.

Prison system quality

The quality of a prison system can play a major role in recidivism outcomes, as mentioned above in the example comparing Norway and the United States. While the United States is not home to the worst prison systems in the world like those found in China, Russia, Thailand, and Venezuela, there is an opportunity for improvement.

One main criticism of the US prison system is the for-profit prisons. These are privately owned and operated prisons that are contracted by the government to house prisoners. In a for-profit prison system, there is an obvious risk of prison operators cutting corners to boost profits at the expense of inmate care. 

In fact, the United States is only one of a handful of countries that actually makes use of for-profit prisons. Some critics even go as far as to suggest that for-profit prisons have little incentive to rehabilitate prisoners as it would harm their business model.

Some policies in the US prison system are also being eliminated in other countries. For example, Canada has moved to eliminate solitary confinement in its prison system while the practice is still widely used in the United States. While solitary confinement isn’t physical torture like what can be found in the worst prison systems in the world, it can have long-term, negative mental health outcomes for prisoners even after they are out of prison.

Women in prison

Much like with the male prisoner population, when looking at female incarceration by country, the United States leads the world for number of women in prison with more than 200,000 women currently serving time. Once again, this only adds fuel to the fire when comparing US prison population vs the world. For context, China sits in second place with just over 100,000 women in prison despite their much larger population.

The consequences of putting women behind bars can be felt throughout the entire family. Since women are most often the main caregiver, their incarceration can lead to very negative outcomes for their children. Kids with parents in prison face a number of challenges including economic hardship, expulsion from school, psychological changes, and even turn to criminal behavior of their own. If the father is unable or unwilling to parent alone, the children can end up in the foster care system, which also increases the risk of criminal behavior and mental health issues.

Once women are released from prison, they may face challenges with finding secure employment and stable housing which makes raising children a challenge. Those that do not have children may still have to battle homelessness, poverty, and hunger. By imprisoning women at such a high rate, the United States may unintentionally be driving future generations toward a life of crime as well which only further worsens the already staggering incarceration rate in the country.

FAQs about U.S. prisons

Which country has the highest incarceration rate in the world?

The United States leads this category by a fairly wide margin. The incarceration rate in the United States is 737 inmates per 100,000 people. This exceeds countries like China, Russia, and Mexico which all have a dubious history with human rights. Despite only having about 5% of the world’s population, the United States is home to almost 25% of all prisoners in the world. Countries like China and India with much higher populations have both a lower incarceration rate and total prison population than the United States.

How does the prison population in America compare to other nations?

The United States far outpaces other countries for total prison population with over 2.1 million jail inmates. China is second on this list with just over 1.5 million people in prison. 

Russia is home to about 870,000 prisoners, Brazil has more than 370,000 prisoners, and India rounds out the top 5 with a little more than 330,000 prisoners. Despite some countries like China and Russia going so far as to imprison gay rights advocates and political dissidents, they still do not match the prisoner totals seen in the United States.

How many prisons are in the United States?

The United States prison system is made up of federal, state, and local facilities. Within that, there are women’s facilities, men’s facilities, and juvenile facilities that may all be subject to different reporting standards and timelines. 

According to recent information, there are 6,125 prisons in the United States including federal prisons, state prisons, local jails, juvenile correctional facilities, and Indian Country jails. This number does not include other facilities that may be relevant, including military prisons or immigration detention facilities.

How much does the United States spend on prisons each year?

It is widely estimated that the United States spends a total of $80 billion per year on public and private prisons. These numbers are a combination of federal, state, and local spending on prisons within their own jurisdictions. That figure has also been quoted by politicians including Bernie Sanders and former President Barack Obama. Some facilities may not be reflected in this number. 

For example, immigration detention facilities would not fall under a federal prison budget and would, instead, be part of the homeland security budget. Military prisons and prisons like Guantanamo Bay would also not appear in these figures, as they would be a part of the military budget. 

Top School Districts in Alabama, 2019

top school districts, 2019 - alabama

Alabama isn’t known for fantastic schools, but state districts have improved dramatically in recent years as funding has increased. While Alabama’s still a long way from the top state school systems, its best districts outperform even average ones in most states.

Alabama offers a mix of urban, suburban, and rural school districts. Districts close to metropolitan areas, like Birmingham, tend to benefit from higher funding. However, for those avoiding city life there are still high performing districts in suburban and rural areas.

Mountain Brook City is first among Alabama’s 129 school districts and located in an affluent suburb of Birmingham, with four elementary schools, one high school, and one alternative school. Test scores are high, with the average standard test score across grades, subjects, and schools well into the eighties. Mountain Brook High School performs particularly well, with an average standard score of 99.9 in 2018.

Also a Birmingham suburb, Vestavia Hills City is rated third in the state and serves 7,015 students across five elementary, two middle schools, and a single high school (the highly regarded Vestavia Hills High School). The district has the third safest schools in Alabama. Vestavia Hills schools currently achieves averages of 73% reading proficiency, 78% math proficiency, SAT scores of nearly 1,400/1,600, and average ACT scores close to 30/36

The number two district in Alabama and roughly 100 miles north of Birmingham, the suburban Madison City serves around 10,000 students divided between seven high performing elementary schools, two middle schools, and two high schools. Madison City performs well. 67% of students are considered proficient readers and 72% at math. The graduation rate is high at 97%. The district is rated highly for both teachers and athletes (third in both within Alabama). Advanced Placement (AP) courses and Gifted Programs are available.

Top School Districts in Alabama, 2019

RankSchool DistrictCountyCityState
1Mountain Brook CityJefferson CountyMountain BrkAlabama
2Madison CityMadison CountyMadisonAlabama
3Vestavia Hills CityJefferson CountyVestavia HillsAlabama
4Hoover CityJefferson CountyBirminghamAlabama
5Homewood CityJefferson CountyHomewoodAlabama
6Auburn CityLee CountyAuburnAlabama
7Trussville CityJefferson CountyTrussvilleAlabama
8Shelby CountyShelby CountyColumbianaAlabama
9Mobile CountyMobile CountyMobileAlabama
10Muscle Shoals CityColbert CountyMuscle ShoalsAlabama
11Baldwin CountyBaldwin CountyBay MinetteAlabama
12Arab CityMarshall CountyArabAlabama
13Cullman CityCullman CountyCullmanAlabama
14Madison CountyMadison CountyHuntsvilleAlabama
15Hartselle CityMorgan CountyHartselleAlabama
16Florence CityLauderdale CountyFlorenceAlabama
17Winfield CityMarion CountyWinfieldAlabama
18Huntsville CityMadison CountyHuntsvilleAlabama
19Jefferson CountyJefferson CountyBirminghamAlabama
20Saraland CityMobile CountySaralandAlabama
21Alabaster CityShelby CountyAlabasterAlabama
22Brewton CityEscambia CountyBrewtonAlabama
23Enterprise CityCoffee CountyEnterpriseAlabama
24Oxford CityCalhoun CountyOxfordAlabama
25Oneonta CityBlount CountyOneontaAlabama


The following contributed to the ranking: number of students (K-12), graduation rate, teacher quality, school funding, student to teacher ratio, standardized test results (reading and math; the percentage of students scoring at or above state proficiency level). Data from a total of 10,728 school districts had sufficient values for the variables above.

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Top School Districts in Arkansas, 2019

top school districts, 2019 - arkansas

Arkansas has historically performed very poorly among American states in education, with underfunding, frequent political meddling in curriculums, and poverty all contributing factors. However, just as in Alabama, recent reforms are improving the situation along with funding increases. Arkansas has been praised repeatedly for its efforts to improve early-childhood education, and college and career readiness.

Top in Arkansas, Haas Hall Bentonville - or Haas Hall Academy - includes only the academy itself and serves around 300 students of grades seven to twelve. Haas Hall Academy students frequently score excellently in standardized college admission tests (ACT), particularly in English (97.4 average in the 11th grade). The location in Bentonville, the home of Walmart, means graduating students can expect to find jobs relatively easily.

At number two and sharing the city of Bentonville, Bentonville Public Schools district has five elementary schools, five junior or middle schools, and one high school. The district is also number one for student athletes in Arkansas This highly rated district has achieved averages of 65% reading proficiency, 58% math proficiency, and a 91% average graduation rate.  The teacher-student ratio is also better than the national average (17:1), at 15:1.

Located to the northeast, the state’s third best school district - Valley View School District - is centered on Arkansas’ fifth largest town of Jonesboro (population around 71,000). With a good 15:1 teacher-student ratio, Valley View delivers a safe learning environment across two elementary schools, and single junior and high schools with 74% reading proficiency, 67% math proficiency, and a 95% average graduation rate. Graduates may take advantage of ample local  opportunities in manufacturing, agriculture, and medicine.

Top School Districts in Arkansas, 2019

RankSchool DistrictCountyCityState
1Haas Hall AcademyWashington CountyFayettevilleArkansas
2Bentonville School DistrictBenton CountyBentonvilleArkansas
3Valley View School DistrictCraighead CountyJonesboroArkansas
4Greenbrier School DistrictFaulkner CountyGreenbrierArkansas
5Valley Springs School DistrictBoone CountyValley SpringsArkansas
6Salem School DistrictFulton CountySalemArkansas
7Nemo Vista School DistrictConway CountyCenter RidgeArkansas
8Fayetteville School DistrictWashington CountyFayettevilleArkansas
9Bismarck School DistrictHot Spring CountyBismarckArkansas
10Greenwood School DistrictSebastian CountyGreenwoodArkansas
11Bryant School DistrictSaline CountyBryantArkansas
12Harrison School DistrictBoone CountyHarrisonArkansas
13Cabot School DistrictLonoke CountyCabotArkansas
14Genoa Central School DistrictMiller CountyTexarkanaArkansas
15Emerson-taylor School DistrictColumbia CountyEmersonArkansas
16Searcy County School DistrictSearcy CountyMarshallArkansas
17Conway School DistrictFaulkner CountyConwayArkansas
18Pottsville School DistrictPope CountyPottsvilleArkansas
19Rogers School DistrictBenton CountyRogersArkansas
20Benton School DistrictSaline CountyBentonArkansas
21Mccrory School DistrictWoodruff CountyMccroryArkansas
22Clinton School DistrictVan Buren CountyClintonArkansas
23Melbourne School DistrictIzard CountyMelbourneArkansas
24Estem High CharterPulaski CountyLittle RockArkansas
25Eureka Springs School DistrictCarroll CountyEureka SpringsArkansas


The following contributed to the ranking: number of students (K-12), graduation rate, teacher quality, school funding, student to teacher ratio, standardized test results (reading and math; the percentage of students scoring at or above state proficiency level). Data from a total of 10,728 school districts had sufficient values for the variables above.

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Top School Districts in Arizona, 2019

top school districts, 2019 - arizona

Arizona has impressive graduation rates in certain districts and it’s possible to find schools with above average test scores.

Chandler Unified District 80 is the top Arizona school district centered on Chandler, a suburb of Phoenix, serving around 42,000 students through thirty elementary schools, six middle schools, and seven high schools.

Although the teacher-student ratio of 20:1 is slightly below the national average of 17:1, the district performs well academically with 56% proficiency for reading, 57% for math, and an impressive graduation rate of 94%.

Deer Valley Unified School District in Phoenix is Arizona’s second highest performing district. It’s large, with thirty elementary, eighteen middle, and seven high schools with 34,153 students total.

Despite its size the district provides a good environment for students, with college prep considered its strongest feature, closely followed by the sports scene. Academics here are acceptable, with reading proficiency at 54% and math slightly trailing at 51%.

Further out from Phoenix, the suburban Gilbert Unified School District ranks third in Arizona. Another large district, Gilbert contains twenty-seven elementary, eight middle, and seven high schools.

Nationally, the district is considered above average, with proficiency for reading and math both at 53%, but a graduation rate of 93%. The district is also recognized for its excellent college prep, health and safety, teachers, administration, and sports.

Top School Districts in Arizona, 2019

RankSchool DistrictCountyCityState
1Chandler Unified District #80Maricopa CountyChandlerArizona
2Deer Valley Unified DistrictMaricopa CountyPhoenixArizona
3Gilbert Unified DistrictMaricopa CountyGilbertArizona
4Scottsdale Unified DistrictMaricopa CountyScottsdaleArizona
5Catalina Foothills Unified DistrictPima CountyTucsonArizona
6Mesa Unified DistrictMaricopa CountyMesaArizona
7Vail Unified School DistrictPima CountyVailArizona
8Peoria Unified School DistrictMaricopa CountyPeoriaArizona
9Higley Unified School DistrictMaricopa CountyGilbertArizona
10Paradise Valley Unified DistrictMaricopa CountyPhoenixArizona
11Cave Creek Unified DistrictMaricopa CountyCave CreekArizona
12Queen Creek Unified DistrictMaricopa CountyQueen CreekArizona
13Tucson Unified DistrictPima CountyTucsonArizona
14Dysart Unified DistrictMaricopa CountySurpriseArizona
15Tanque Verde Unified DistrictPima CountyTucsonArizona
16Tempe Union High School DistrictMaricopa CountyTempeArizona
17Glendale Union High School DistrictMaricopa CountyGlendaleArizona
18Peach Springs Unified DistrictMohave CountyPeach SpringsArizona
19Palominas Elementary DistrictCochise CountyHerefordArizona
20St Johns Unified DistrictApache CountySt. JohnsArizona
21Fountain Hills Unified DistrictMaricopa CountyFountain HillsArizona
22Snowflake Unified DistrictNavajo CountySnowflakeArizona
23Sierra Vista Unified DistrictCochise CountySierra VistaArizona
24Thatcher Unified DistrictGraham CountyThatcherArizona
25Amphitheater Unified DistrictPima CountyTucsonArizona


The following contributed to the ranking: number of students (K-12), graduation rate, teacher quality, school funding, student to teacher ratio, standardized test results (reading and math; the percentage of students scoring at or above state proficiency level). Data from a total of 10,728 school districts had sufficient values for the variables above.

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Top School Districts in California, 2019

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As the epicenter of the tech and entertainment industries in the United States, and with a GDP that dwarfs every other US state’s, it’s no surprise that California boasts some of the best public school districts around. Let’s take a look at The Golden State’s top five.

Topping the list is San Mateo County Office of Education of San Mateo County, comprised of several suburban counties along the San Francisco Bay, just north of Silicon Valley. Rather than being an individual school district, San Mateo County Office of Education presides over 23 school elementary, high school and unified districts in the county, as well as a community college district and numerous charter schools.

Nearby San Francisco County Office of Education, encompassing all of the public schools in  the city of San Francisco, ranks #2 on the list. Comprised of over 130 schools, students of the racially diverse district boast math and English test scores well above the state averages.

Coming in third is Santa Barbara County Office of Education, a terrific district presiding over schools in what is known as the “American Riviera”.

#4 L.A. Unified, the second largest public school district in the country with an enrollment of nearly 700,000, is an excellent example of a massive, yet well-run district. In all, ten languages are taught to the district’s diverse student populace.

Rounding out the top five is the San Diego County Office of Education, known for its many programs providing assistance with special needs or belong to families experiencing economic hardship.

Top School Districts in California, 2019

RankSchool DistrictCountyCityState
1San Mateo County Office of EducationSan Mateo CountyRedwood CityCalifornia
2San Francisco County Office of EducationSan Francisco CountySan FranciscoCalifornia
3Santa Barbara County Office of EducationSanta Barbara CountySanta BarbaraCalifornia
4Los Angeles UnifiedLos Angeles CountyLos AngelesCalifornia
5San Diego County Office of EducationSan Diego CountySan DiegoCalifornia
6Marin County Office of EducationMarin CountySan RafaelCalifornia
7Sonoma County Office of EducationSonoma CountySanta RosaCalifornia
8Imperial County Office of EducationImperial CountyEl CentroCalifornia
9Tehama County Department of EducationTehama CountyRed BluffCalifornia
10Kings County Office of EducationKings CountyHanfordCalifornia
11San Luis Obispo County Office of EducationSan Luis Obispo CountySan Luis ObispoCalifornia
12Placer County Office of EducationPlacer CountyAuburnCalifornia
13Sutter County Office of EducationSutter CountyYuba CityCalifornia
14Los Angeles County Office of EducationLos Angeles CountyDowneyCalifornia
15Solano County Office of EducationSolano CountyFairfieldCalifornia
16San Diego UnifiedSan Diego CountySan DiegoCalifornia
17Humboldt County Office of EducationHumboldt CountyEurekaCalifornia
18Stanislaus County Office of EducationStanislaus CountyModestoCalifornia
19San Bernardino County Office of EducationSan Bernardino CountySan BernardinoCalifornia
20Shasta County Office of EducationShasta CountyReddingCalifornia
21El Dorado County Office of EducationEl Dorado CountyPlacervilleCalifornia
22Merced County Office of EducationMerced CountyMercedCalifornia
23Butte County Office of EducationButte CountyOrovilleCalifornia
24Palo Alto UnifiedSanta Clara CountyPalo AltoCalifornia
25San Ramon Valley UnifiedContra Costa CountyDanvilleCalifornia


The following contributed to the ranking: number of students (K-12), graduation rate, teacher quality, school funding, student to teacher ratio, standardized test results (reading and math; the percentage of students scoring at or above state proficiency level). Data from a total of 10,728 school districts had sufficient values for the variables above.

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Top School Districts in Colorado, 2019

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Colorado is known for boasting one of the healthiest and well-educated populations in the United States, owing to the state’s physical majestic and ripe opportunity for outdoor activity, and this vigor is reflected in the performance of its best public school districts.

The top district in the state is Jefferson County School District No. R-1, presiding over 100 elementary, middle, and high schools in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Students in the district best the state averages in the CMAS, PSAT, and SAT tests.

Placing second is Douglas County School District RE-1, the third largest district in the state of Colorado. The quality of the district’s schools is shown through the high (and continually rising) 90.8% graduation rate.

Colorado’s #3 school district is its largest: Denver County School District 1, serving the schools of the city of Denver. The fast-growing and steadily improving school district reduced its drop-out rate from 11.1% to 4.5% from 2006-2014.

Cherry Creek School District No. 5 is the Centennial State’s #4 district.  Known for attracting high teaching talent, over 79% of the district’s faculty have 10+ years of experience.   In 2018, 14 of the district’s schools were named John Irwin Schools of Excellence.

Closing out the top five is Boulder Valley No. Re2, centered near Boulder and serving that community, along with several others in the area. Due its frequent placing as the top district in the state academically, BVSD has earned a reputation that transcends state borders.

Top School Districts in Colorado, 2019

RankSchool DistrictCountyCityState
1Jefferson County School District No. R-1Jefferson CountyGoldenColorado
2Douglas County School District No. Re 1Douglas CountyCastle RockColorado
3School District No. 1 in the county of Denver and State of CDenver CountyDenverColorado
4Cherry Creek School District No. 5 in the county of ArapahArapahoe CountyGreenwood VillageColorado
5Boulder Valley School District No. Re2Boulder CountyBoulderColorado
6Mancos School District Re-6Montezuma CountyMancosColorado
7School District No. Re-20 Weldon ValleyMorgan CountyWeldonaColorado
8Littleton School District No. 6 in the county of ArapahoeArapahoe CountyLittletonColorado
9Academy School District No. 20 in the county of El Paso anEl Paso CountyColorado SpringsColorado
10Cheyenne Mountain School District No. 12 in the county of EEl Paso CountyColorado SpringsColorado
11Steamboat Springs School District No. Re 2Routt CountySteamboat SpringsColorado
12Poudre School District R-1Larimer CountyFort CollinsColorado
13Lewis-Palmer Consolidated School District No. 38 in the coEl Paso CountyMonumentColorado
14Telluride School District No. R-1San Miguel CountyTellurideColorado
15Limon School District No. Re 4JLincoln CountyLimonColorado
16Adams 12 Five Star SchoolsAdams CountyThorntonColorado
17St. Vrain Valley School District No. Re1JBoulder CountyLongmontColorado
18Aspen School District No. 1 in the county of Pitkin and StaPitkin CountyAspenColorado
19East Grand School District No. 2Grand CountyGranbyColorado
20Platte Canyon School District No. 1 of the county of ParkPark CountyBaileyColorado
21Summit School District No. Re 1Summit CountyFriscoColorado
22Weld County School District No. Re-7Weld CountyKerseyColorado
23Weld County Reorganized School District No. Re-4Weld CountyWindsorColorado
24Meeker School District Re1Rio Blanco CountyMeekerColorado
25Ridgway School District No. R-2 of the county of Ouray aOuray CountyRidgwayColorado


The following contributed to the ranking: number of students (K-12), graduation rate, teacher quality, school funding, student to teacher ratio, standardized test results (reading and math; the percentage of students scoring at or above state proficiency level). Data from a total of 10,728 school districts had sufficient values for the variables above.

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