A new report that measures the effectiveness of public schools in some of the nation’s largest metro areas ranks Raleigh near the bottom of the pile.

Published by the Fordham Institute, the report, “America’s Best and Worst Metro Areas for School Quality,” measured the effectiveness of school systems based on general academic growth, academic growth for traditionally disadvantaged students, improvement in achievement in recent years, and high-school graduation rates.

North Carolina’s capital city ranked poorly on three out of the four criteria, with the region’s high-school graduation rate being the only metric that scored slightly higher.

“What’s most interesting about Raleigh is that it has such high levels of average academic achievement but performs so poorly on our rankings,” said Adam Tyner, associate director of the research at the Fordham Institute. “This indicates that students in Raleigh are, on average, starting off at a high level but making relatively little progress from year-to-year, especially compared to places with similar demographics.”

Topping the list are the metros of Miami, Memphis, McAllen, Tx., Atlanta, and Indianapolis. Bottoming out the list, in addition to Raleigh, are metros like the San Francisco and Washington, D.C., areas.

The Fordham report used a unique arrangement of data points heavily weighted toward student progress. It put less emphasis on SAT scores or graduation rates since those tend to be more related to demographic makeup rather than the true effectiveness of how well schools teach students.

This project uses two principal data sources covering public school students, including those who attend charter schools: the Stanford Education Data Archive (SEDA) version 4.0 and the Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate data from the U.S. Department of Education’s EdFacts data collection.

What can policymakers do in response? “First, dig into the data,” advised the report’s authors. “Understand which individual school districts are dragging down the ratings and which are doing relatively well. Then, study the high achievers and figure out what they are doing—or really, were doing, pre-pandemic—that might be emulated.”

“We simply don’t know why the schools of certain metro areas are so much more effective than those of other regions. Our fervent hope is that scholars will use these tools to try to answer that question, as best they can,” the authors wrote.