Academic Achievement

Relative to other states, student performance in Pennsylvania is very strong. Eighth graders stand 8 and 7 percentage points above the national average for students at or above the proficient level on the NAEP math and reading exams, respectively. The national average is 34% for math and 35% for reading.

Academic Achievement for Low-Income and Minority Students

Pennsylvania earns a mediocre grade on academic achievement for low-income and minority students. Seventeen percent of Hispanic 8th graders score at or above the proficient level on the NAEP reading exam, 5 percentage points below the national average. 

Return on Investment

Student achievement in Pennsylvania is low relative to state spending after controlling for cost of living.   

Truth in Advertising: Student Proficiency

Pennsylvania posts average marks on the credibility of its student proficiency scores. The grade is based on the difference between the percentage of students identified as proficient in reading and math on the 2011 state exams and the percentage identified as proficient on the 2011 NAEP reading and math tests.

Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness

Pennsylvania earns a high grade preparing its students for college and careers. The state’s high school graduation rate of 88% is one of the highest in the country.

21st Century Teacher Force

Pennsylvania does an average job of creating a strong teacher workforce. While the Keystone State is an average performer in retaining effective teachers, it struggles with removing ineffective ones. 

Parental Options

Pennsylvania does a good job providing parents with strong school choice options. A fairly strong scholarship program exists for students in underperforming schools; however, the charter school law could be better if multiple authorizers were permitted to approve new schools.

Data Quality

Pennsylvania earns a below average grade collecting and reporting high-quality education data. It does not produce high school feedback reports or give parents access to data on their children’s academic performance.


Pennsylvania receives a very poor grade employing technology to provide quality instruction and personalized learning. Students have access to very few high-quality digital learning options, and the state’s funding model is unreceptive to new digital options.

International Competitiveness

Pennsylvania earns a very high grade preparing its students to compete in a global economy, with 37% of students proficient in reading and math compared with an international standard. 

Fiscal Responsibility

Pennsylvania receives very low marks on fiscal responsibility. Only 64% of the state’s pension is funded, and its most recent pension contribution was a paltry 43%.