For the fifth year in a row, Maryland was the star pupil in the 2013 Quality Counts report card, an annual assessment of the state of American education conducted by the Education Week newsroom in conjunction with the Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) Research Center.

Maryland earned a “B+,” the highest overall grade of any state. Massachusetts, New York and Virginia followed closely behind, each earning a “B,” while Arkansas rounded out the top five, posting a “B-.”

The state in most need of improvement in this year’s Quality Counts report was South Dakota, which earned a “D+.”

The 2013 report card assigns an overall grade of C+ to the nation as a whole.  Grades are determined by a framework encompassing six categories: Chance for Success Index; K-12 Achievement; Standards, Assessments & Accountability; Transitions & Alignment Policies; Teaching Profession; and School Finance.

In the area of School Finance, the nation earned only a “C.” Wyoming, noted as “a longtime leader in this category,” was the only state to earn an “A.” West Virginia followed closely behind, with an “A-.” On the other end of the spectrum, 11 states posted in the “D” range in the School Finance category.

The School Finance and Chance for Success are updated every year, according to Amy Hightower, Ph.D., Director of the EPE Research Center. The grades from the other sections carry over from the year of the most recent update. The 2013 Quality Counts report includes updated data from the School Finance, Chance for Success, and Transitions and Alignment Policies sections. The data for other three sections were updated in 2012 and carried over for this year’s report.

Copies of each state’s Highlight Reports are available for purchase through Education Week’s website for $4.95 per state.