Slate concludes: "Probably not coincidentally, the list of 'smartest' states tracks pretty closely with the list of richest states, and the worst test-takers tend to live in the most impoverished areas." The Beast gives a bit more detail concluding pointing out
. . . . the top five performing states on this list have a median household income (not adjusted for cost of living) of roughly $60,000, and 21 percent of people over age 25 have a bachelor’s degree; the bottom five are at $44,000 and 14 percent, respectively, according to 2009 US Census figures. Children who perform better on NAEP tests also tend to come from states with lower levels of student poverty.For the record, South Dakota ranked 22nd on the NAEP and ranks 26th in child poverty. A quick look at a chart provided by the Census Bureau seems to indicate that South Dakota ranks 26th in median income with an average income of $48,416.
I spent most of the weekend listening to high schoolers tell me that correlation does not mean causation, so I approach these numbers with a bit of trepidation. That being said, it seems to me that the austerity effort South Dakota's governor is undertaking is going to drive people, especially high wage earners out of state. If that happens and if the articles are correct, that means that the state's NAEP scores may soon drop as well.