Graduation Rankings

It’s official. We’re a bunch of dummies.

According to a new study, Arizona is the 48th “smartest” state in the U.S. That means we are the fourth dumbest state. (The study included the District of Columbia, which finished ahead of us. Although, with the way things are going politically in our capital, I’d say D.C. is threatening to pass us in the rankings.)

The study ranking the Smartest and Dumbest States in America was done by using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Education Department and the College Board.

The rankings were determined by analyzing the following four categories in every state:

Adults 25 years and older with bachelor’s degrees.

An average of the percentage of adults 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree and the percentage of adults 25 and older with a graduate or professional degree. For Arizona, only 18.3% have college degrees. (And that even includes ASU grads.)

High school graduation rates in 2017.

The study used a figure referred to as the Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate for public high schools in each state.

In Arizona, 78% of our population graduated high school.

Median SAT score in 2018-19.

The study looked at the percentage of test-takers who met college and career readiness benchmarks.

Our score was 134, which seems pretty low when most state scores top 1,000. I emailed the researchers asking if this was a typo in the release, or if it was a mistake in calculated data, and if so, if it would change Arizona’s ranking.

I hadn’t heard back by press deadline. Maybe they think it’s a dumb question.

And ACT takers meeting subject benchmarks.

This was the average percentage meeting subject-matter benchmarks in English, reading, math and science.

In our state, we have 35% meeting the benchmarks.

Overall, in each category the states were ranked from best to worst and a numerical value was assigned (51-1).

I was prepared to argue that the data is misleading and Arizona’s ranking wasn’t deserved. But as a journalist I have seen plenty of evidence to the contrary.

For instance, Arizona consistently leads other states in the number of auto-pedestrian fatalities. And most of the victims were jaywalking.

Then there are the number of wrong-way drivers we have. Sure, many of the drivers were drunk, but you have to be pretty dumb even if you’re drunk to think you can drive the freeway home.

And I don’t even want to talk about our politicians. You only have to follow the Legislature to understand our intelligence gap. Just this week our governor bragged about how successful Arizona’s economy has been this year while volunteering at a local food bank. Not the smartest backdrop for such a boasting.

So if we are one of the dumbest states in the union, who are the smartest?

Well, according to the study, the 10 Smartest States in America are New Jersey, Utah, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Montana, Virginia, Kansas, Wisconsin, Oregon and Minnesota.

New Jersey is the smartest?

OK, so that is a hit on the credibility of the study right there. Because that means all the people compiled for the study actually live there. And who would be dumb enough to live in New Jersey?

Here are the 10 Least Smartest States in America: Idaho, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Louisiana, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Ohio and Kentucky.

So we finished behind Louisiana. Hey, but we’re ahead of New Mexico, Oklahoma and Idaho.

God bless Idaho.

In a separate study by the same group, Arizona is the No. 2 most affordable state in the U.S.

Arizona also has 300 days of sunshine a year and the average winter temperature is 70 degrees.

So who are the dummies now?


Andy Howell can be reached at