Rhode Island · School Talk

RI Only New England State Not in Top 10. The Question is Why?

We’ve all seen the lists that rank states, cities, and towns in terms of pretty much everything: water quality, business friendliness, safe neighborhoods, and yes, the schools. With all of these lists—that often cause a bit too much gloating for those at the top and a bit too much piling on of those on the bottom—one needs to look at the methodology and understand that they don’t tell us everything.

However. They also tell us a lot more than nothing and we have an obligation to consider why we fall where we do on the list and to a) acknowledge the glaring weaknesses and b) commit to improvement. Far too often, when we get a positive ranking (especially with regard to schools), we race to share it far and wide, offering up very little, if any, critique of the methodology. But, as human nature would have it, we often down play and discredit any study that shines an unfavorable light on our community’s schools rather than stop to ask ourselves the hard questions. The predictable ‘yeah buts’ begin and the study is criticized (which it may or may not warrant), the excuses begin, and the ‘well, at least we’re better than so and so’ mentality takes over.

We move the goal posts in our minds to avoid the discomfort of having to admit that we are not getting the job done. Suburban parents convince themselves that theirs schools are better than they are (hey, we’re not Providence, right?) and show little to no concern for the stunningly poor results coming out of communities that are just minutes away, communities where children deserve an education that is as good as every other child’s in the state.

We have to care. Because while Barrington and East Greenwich may look great on paper locally, they don’t when you put them up against top towns in Massachusetts and Connecticut. And that isn’t okay because it hurts our kids now and in the future when they are competing for college admissions and employment. And the same is true in our cities. While Boston families have huge concerns about their children’s education, Providence families should be even more concerned. Don’t believe me? Just ask some of the biggest employers in the state.

And this isn’t about blame. It’s about acknowledging the return on investment (or lack thereof) that we are getting out of our public system and coming together to make needed changes. And parents need a seat at that table.

Today’s Bad News

For those of us live and breathe education in Rhode Island (and elsewhere), there isn’t much to be surprised about in the most recent study by WalletHub.

When it comes to its schools, Rhode Island remains a high spending, low performing state—the last place any state wants to be. This isn’t a new problem. We have fallen into that depressing quartile for years. What is new is that even Maine outperforms us in the study which makes us the ONLY state in New England not to be ranked in the top ten for education.

We are ranked 25th out of 50 states. Our spending, however, is in the top ten. In fact, we rank 5th on that metric.

And when it comes to reading scores, we are the only New England state not to appear in the top 5.


GoLocal Prov highlights the study today and includes the methodology that led to the rankings. They also include a graph that allows you to click on different states to see where they fall in terms of spending and performance.

Whether you love or hate state rankings, it’s worth a look.


At the very least, we owe it to our kids to know.

What do you think?

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