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Top 10 Best Cities for Education in America

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    For many families, education is the determining factor in where they choose to make their home. Education is key to a better life, maybe even a longer one; in fact, a Harvard Medical School study found that well-educated people live 30 percent longer. In contrast to state budget cuts for education, the U.S. Department of Education is offering $400 million to states in their Race to the Top program for schools that can show improvement in student achievement. The good news is that graduation rates are improving across the country; more students are taking advanced science and math courses like calculus, statistics, chemistry and physics; and we have seen a 37 percent increase in college enrollment.

    Choosing a school for your kids is a personal choice, so we can't tell you which city will be a perfect match for your family. However, these cities stood out when we compared educational benchmarks like graduation rates, math and reading scores, per-student spending and class sizes.

    1. Burlington, Vermont
    Ranked second overall on our best cities list, it's no surprise that Burlington tops our education list. The small city boasts small class sizes, a huge perk since the U.S. Department of Education reported that achievement scores are higher in schools with fewer kids per class. Burlington also boasts a favorable student-to-teacher ratio. There are also plenty of options for pint-size students; Burlington has a high number of National Association for the Education of Young People-accredited day care centers per capita.

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    2. Cheyenne, Wyoming
    Another small city offering small class sizes for kids, second-place Cheyenne has a low student-to-teacher ratio and impressive per-pupil expenditures. They also rank high on our list for Blue Ribbon schools per capita.

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    3. Portland, Maine
    It’s no surprise that another small city polishes off our top three in this category. Already doing well with its small class sizes, Portland also ranked for its low student-to-teacher ratio and high graduation rate.

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    4.  Boston, Massachusetts
    One of the benefits of a big city is often a larger source of revenue for the schools, which may explain why Boston secured a top spot on our list; the city scored highly for its per-pupil expenditures. More importantly, the parents seem satisfied with what the schools have to offer: when the district surveyed parents, nearly 95 percent agreed that the school was a good place for their child to learn.

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    5. Arlington, Virginia
    Arlington scored well for its per-pupil expenditures and its high graduation rate. But the school isn't just about textbook learning; the students are encouraged to be part of the community. Recently, a group of 55 third-graders harvested 10 pounds of produce that they had cultivated in a school garden and donated it to the Arlington Food Assistance Center.

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    6. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    This former industrial city has reinvented itself in recent years, transforming into a family-friendly town with a focus on education. Pittsburgh is home to top-tier institutions like Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh, helping to set the stage for a citywide focus on education. The school district ranked highly on per-pupil expenditures, and the city boasts an impressive number of National Association for the Education of Young People-accredited day care centers per capita.

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    7. Madison, Wisconsin
    When a city is nestled close to an educational powerhouse like the University of Wisconsin, the emphasis on learning defines the city. Madison's school district found its way on to our list for its high graduation rate and is in the top 10 percent for math and reading proficiency as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The school district also recently announced an exciting plan to buy iPads for use in the majority of schools, thanks to a state fund.

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    8. Lincoln, Nebraska
    Quality day care is important both for parental peace of mind, and for the development of your child. A study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that teens who were in high-quality day care when they were young scored higher on measures of academic and cognitive achievement and were less likely to report bad behavior. Lincoln made our list for its high number of accredited day care centers per capita and also scored points for a state law requiring a low 4-to-1 infant-to-day-care-staff ratio.

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    9. New York, New York
    The largest school district in the country has a big task on its hands, educating more than a million children. Yet, despite the enormity of that undertaking, the city managed to score highly for its graduation rate and per-pupil expenditures. The school district made news recently when reports emerged of parent-teacher groups in the district routinely raising money for their schools with sums as high as $1 million. These PTA groups use the funds to pay for teachers’ aides or to help buffer budget cuts from the city. It's committed parents like these that help to secure a spot for New York in our top 10.

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    10. Ann Arbor, Michigan
    Home to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor boasts a unique diversity in the school system, with 64 different languages spoken district-wide. The city landed on our list for a high number of accredited day care centers per capita and a stellar graduation rate. The schools are also committed to going green. The city was awarded the nation's largest LEED Silver Certified High School and received national recognition for participation in the Green Lights program, which saves energy while reducing costs.