Boston: The Seventh Most Literate City in the U.S.

Our high school graduation rate is dragging us down

We may think of ourselves as the smartest city in the country (Fast Company seems to think so at least) but the the latest round of city rankings has found that Boston comes in seventh among the most literate cities in the nation, a finding that shows where we need to do more work. The group 24/7 Wall Street, pulling data from Central Connecticut State College, based their rankings on six factors: the size of library systems, presence of bookstores, educational attainment, digital readership, and circulation of newspapers and other publications. The top five cities which outranked us were Washington, D.C., Seattle, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, and Denver, (and St. Paul just came out ahead of us.) This ranking is revealing in some ways, in that it notes that while the number of residents here with college degrees outdoes many other cities, we come up short when it comes to high school diplomas. From their writeup:

> Weekday newspaper circulation per 100: 52.35 (13th highest)
> Pct. adults with college degree: 42.7% (11th highest)
> Retail bookstores per 10,000: 2.48 (17th most)
> Median income: $49,081 (25th highest)

Boston had a higher level of Internet readership than other cities — with a higher proportion of residents reading online or reading e-books. Not many cities in the U.S. had as many periodical publishers such as magazines and scholarly journals. The city of Boston is well known for its higher education, with more than 50 colleges and universities in the area. However, access to quality education is not evenly distributed. In 2011, 42.7% of Boston residents over age 25 had a bachelor’s degree, one of the highest rates among large cities in the United States. Yet just 84% of adult Boston residents had earned at least a high school diploma, below the nationwide rate of 85.9%.

The emphasis is mine, and it speaks to the educational overhaul that’s needed in Boston Public Schools. In his state of the city address last month, Mayor Menino committed $30 million to create a Quality Improvement Fund for the schools. That, plus the upcoming discussions about the school choice system, slated for later this  month, are all steps that will hopefully begin to  steer the education system toward higher graduation rates. Because though these rankings are a dime a dozen, they can reveal real discrepancies that we need to tackle head on.