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Finding the best education for their kids is a primary consideration among home buyers looking to settle down, but that's not only because they want to raise bookworms.

Hubs of quality education are also often centers of fast home appreciation.

Not just a test score tally, Morgan Quitno Press' first annual Smartest State Award puts Connecticut at the top of the heap because of its high per-pupil expenditures, high public high school graduation rates, small average class size, high pupil-teacher ratios and high teacher salaries, as well as high student reading and math proficiency levels and a host of other public school-related factors.

Five of New England's six states are among Morgan Quitno's Top 10 Smartest States and five of them are also among the Top 10 Fastest Appreciating States (annually, as of the second quarter), according to Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO).

Morgan Quitno's Top 10 Smartest States were Connecticut, Vermont, Montana, New Jersey, Maine, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Wyoming Indiana and Rhode Island.

OFHEO's Top 10 Fastest Appreciating States were the District of Columbia, Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, Florida and Vermont.

At the bottom of the heap were mostly South and Southwestern States -- Ohio, Delaware, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and New Mexico, dead last. Southern states also dominate the list of slowest appreciating markets -- Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Indiana, South Carolina, Idaho, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Utah.

Morgan Quitno is the Lawrence KS researcher and publisher of "Most Livable States", "Healthiest States", "Safest and Most Dangerous States" and other publications offered in book and online versions.

The first annual Smartest State Award is based on 21 education-related factors

from "Education State Rankings", a new annual reference book that compares the 50 United States in more than 400 education categories.

In addition to those mentioned above, factors include high school drop out rate, physical conflicts among students, percent of teachers physically attacked, percent of expenditures used for instructional purposes, teacher pay and average class sizes.

Together, all the factors reflect a state's commitment to students and teachers, an emphasis on excellence in the classroom and support of safe, well-run elementary and secondary public schools.

"Connecticut has a very solid record when it comes to education. Its excellence across-the-board in factors such as student proficiency in math and reading, class size and spending for education makes it a sure winner for the award," said Scott Morgan, president of Morgan Quitno.

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