Student writing
Susan Pendergrass

The results are in, and they’re not great. On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education released the Nation’s Report Card, and Missouri is middle of the pack—at best. Nationwide, Missouri 4th graders rank 24th in reading and 25th in math. Unfortunately, our 8th graders dropped to 26th in reading and a troubling 33rd in math.  And when you control for demographics, we fared even worse.

The Nation’s Report Card is based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and the same test is administered in all 50 states every two years by the U.S. Department of Education. It’s the only test that we can use to see how we’re doing compared to other states. Oddly, the Missouri NAEP coordinator doesn’t seem concerned that our students are less prepared than half of the country because, as he stated, the Missouri-based test—MAP—more accurately reflects the current reality of Missouri classrooms.

The NAEP also gives us a chance to see how our performance is trending over time. After a decade of changes to the Missouri School Improvement Program (we’re now on MSIP 5) that miraculously continues to find that over 90 percent of schools are “fully accredited,” after nearly $11 billion in spending each year, and after steadfast refusal to expand educational options in Missouri—we haven’t made much progress.

You can argue that the NAEP standard for proficiency is too high and our students shouldn’t be expected to meet it, or that it doesn’t matter how we compare to other states. But, at some point, it’s up to Missouri policymakers to own up to the fact that we aren’t making any headway.

Recently, I wrote a blog post about Indianapolis and how it offers parents robust choices for their children’s education. Indiana, in general, has been proactive and innovative when it comes to public education. Their rankings this year? They’re 10th in 4th-grade reading and 7th in math, and they’re 7th in 8th-grade reading and 17th in math. Other states with strong school-choice environments, such as Florida, did similarly well.

Missouri students need to learn to read and write, and we need a functioning accountability system. Giving parents options means that they have a say in holding schools accountable, and unlike what we’ve been doing, it just might work.

About the Author

Susan Pendergrass
Director of Research and Education Policy

Susan Pendergrass was Vice President of Research and Evaluation for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools before joining the Show-Me Institute. Prior to coming to the National Alliance, Susan was a senior policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Education during the Bush administration and a senior research scientist at the National Center for Education Statistics during the Obama administration. She earned a Ph.D. in Public Policy from George Mason University.