For many years, Massachusetts has enjoyed the unofficial title as the Education State. It is the mecca of American higher education with over 50 universities and colleges in the Boston area alone. Bay State K-12 students rank first in national reading and mathematics test scores.

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Education is the foundation of America’s meritocratic values and the key to whatever success the country will find in a globalized, knowledge-based economy. Massachusetts is renowned for its higher-education institutions. Less well known, though, is that the home of the original Tea Party also has the best schools in the country. On the most basic measures of educational achievement—fourth- and eighth-grade math and reading skills—Massachusetts tops the nation.

Education Week’s Quality Counts 2012 report expands on this success. On their overall index, Massachusetts ranks second to Maryland. But on two of the index’s most important measures of results—a lifetime educational Chance for Success index, and a K-12 Achievement index that bundles metrics such as test results, year-on-year improvement, and the gap between poor and wealthier kids (perhaps the truest test of our fabled meritocracy)—the Bay State again leads the nation and most of the world.

According to a 2011 Harvard study, while reading proficiency in Mississippi is comparable to Russia or Bulgaria, Massachusetts performs more like Singapore, Japan, or South Korea. Massachusetts’s students also rank fifth in the world in reading, lapping Singapore and Japan, and needless to say, every state in the union. In math, Massachusetts slots in a global ninth, ahead of Japan and Germany. (Some international educational studies rank Shanghai and Hong Kong as separate countries; if this wasn’t done, Massachusetts would likely rank two places higher.)

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