Statistics released last week by the Missouri State Auditor revealed Missouri’s educational standings have improved relative to other states and the national average.
The statistics showed the state and national average ranked in categories varying from civic involvement to crime to education. Alongside other aspects where Missouri tended to hit center, the state has improved in educational ranks against other states.
David Valentine, research associate professor at MU’s Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs, said Missouri often hits the center of statistics because it reflects the country’s average incomes and population and does not make drastic changes as a state.
Valentine said the School of Public Affairs has been working with the auditor for the past two or three years to compile these statistics to compare Missouri with the rest of the country.
“You can't expect to see much year to year,” Valentine said. “We want to see what happens in five, 10, 15 years. That long-term effect is what we’re looking for.”
The National Assessment of Educational Progress, a uniform and nationally administered test, serves as a common educational measurement in communities across the nation.
From 2005 to 2009, Missouri jumped from 22nd to 17th in the reading portion and from 45th to 25th in the math portion of the fourth-grade version of the NAEP. The 2009 eighth-grade NAEP rankings for the state were 17th and 22nd, respectively.
Missouri was ranked 31st in the amount of residents over the age of 25 with a high school diploma and 34th for those over 25 with a bachelor’s degree.
Missouri was ranked 27th in ACT scores, a national standardized test, with an average score of 21.6, exceeding the national average score of 21.
The ACT Profile Report, a summary of ACT scores, indicated Columbia students’ average composite score was 23.3, compared to 21.6 for Missouri test-takers and 21.0 for test-takers across the nation, according to the Regional Economic Development, Inc. website.
Tom Rose, Columbia Public Schools Board of Education president, said he wants to eventually have all secondary students take the ACT. He said having more students take AP classes and emphasizing standardized tests will raise the bar for all students.
“You can see in this global economy that you have to have a certain level of knowledge in order to achieve,” Rose said. “If we talk about wanting a higher standard at universities and having more rigor at schools, then we have to have some type of measure to get to that next level.”
Rose said Columbia is introducing new curriculum in math programs and new language arts materials to help with students’ reading and comprehension.
City of Columbia Communications Director Toni Messina said Columbia is a community very focused on education not only for traditionally young people, but also for older citizens continuing their education. She said emphasizing education at any age is important because success is so dependent on formal schooling.
“Without an educated workforce, you put your community at risk,” Messina said. “The future depends on it.”
Columbia has a number of initiatives aimed toward a younger audience and its professional future. The Junior Leadership Columbia Steering Committee program, sponsored by the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, seeks to hone high school students’ skills to become community and business leaders.