The state of Missouri ranked in the top 10 for overall education performance, according to the United States Department of Education's new State of the States in Education report based on 2009 data.
The ranking is based on five categories: the proficiency in fourth and eighth grade reading and math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress for students in general, four-year on-time high school graduation rates, college-going rate of high school graduates, three-year college graduation rates for associate’s degrees and six-year college graduation rates for bachelor’s degrees.
Although it ranked in the top 10 overall, the only category in which Missouri ranked in the top 10 was four-year on-time high school graduation rates. It had the ninth highest high school graduation rate at 83.1 percent.
The fact that Missouri only ranked in the top 10 in one category but still ranked in the top 10 overall brings up doubt about the reliability of the rankings.
“I do think Missouri deserves to be ranked in the top 10 for best education performance in the United States because the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education does a good job at setting and maintaining high standards for the school of Missouri,” Aleah Hayes, who studies elementary education at Columbia College, said in an email. “They create a solid and well-rounded curriculum that best fits each school and all individuals.”
Hayes, a junior, said the overall rankings were consistent with the rest of the U.S. Department of Education data.
“The representation of states does seem to prove that Missouri would be in the top because it was consistently in the middle of the results and never falling in the low range,” she said.
Hannah Reese, an MU freshman who graduated from Rock Bridge High School in Columbia, said Missouri earned the top 10 ranking in the high school graduation rate category.
“I think in general the rankings are accurate,” she said. “I think that in general there is just an emphasis on graduating and getting all the way through high school in most Missouri schools. For me at Rock Bridge, there was just a lot of emphasis from everyone at school to make it all the way to graduation.”
Tracey Conrad, the principal of Hickman High School, said a program called Missouri Option could be a contributing factor to the high school graduation rate.
“There are numerous factors which might influence the graduation rate,” Conrad said in an email. “However, one factor which might have a significant impact is The Missouri Option program. Missouri Option provides an alternative means by which student can earn a high school diploma.”
Junior Joseph Poehlmann, a secondary education major, said the rankings should not compare states, but counties within each state.
"Nationally ranking states like this can be controversial, because education funds come almost entirely from state funds, rather than federal funds, therefore making each state different from the next," Poehlmann said.
He said the map on the U.S. Department of Education report seems reliable, but he casted doubt on the significance of the ranking.
"The map is effective in telling us which states and regions have better schooling,” Poehlmann said. “However, it does not have too great of significance to us. This is because education funds come almost entirely from the states themselves and not the federal government, meaning these are state problems rather than a national problem. If the federal government funded states more for education, this would have different significance."