The Missouri Education System


Cam Fuller

The Missouri Education system is truly special. The state has a huge contrast in the size of its High Schools. This does not mean that that the overall education that each student receives is better or worse, as state initiatives such as Common Core help make sure that each student is learning the same things. Even beyond this though smaller schools across the state have begun using interesting and very effective new technologies to help them teach their students.
Directed by Cam Fuller[vc_video link=”″]Forty-nine point eight million children in grades K -12 are enrolled in public education in the United States, according to the Institute of Education Sciences. Each of these students sees the education system in a personal light through multiple relationships: student to student, student to teacher and student to administrator.
While students experience education through their schools and in the community, governance of education goes much higher than the local principal or superintendent. Local, state and national governments influence how students are taught. State government, in particular, has a large impact on how students are educated.
As a result, education varies significantly from one state to the next. The state level is where most decisions on education are made. State governments set policy on curriculum, standardized tests, and how long school is in session. The Board of Education makes its decisions based on federal regulations, educators’ opinions, and the opinions of its’ own members.
 “State Board of Education is made up of former educators. The Board takes into consideration teacher opinion, and other regulations set at the federal level and other State Boards of Education around the nation,” said Linda Bushman, a spokesperson for 19th district state senator Kurt Schaefer.
Even though the State Board takes into account current and former educators’ opinions, not all teachers are satisfied. ”They require things of people that they don’t even master themselves,” Rock Bridge Teacher Gregory Irwin said. “I wonder how many adults could pass these exams [EOC (End of Course exams)],  which shows how useful and relevant they are to job and career success. So why so much pressure on every graduate to have all the content areas mastered?” 
One of the most criticized aspects of the State Board of Education is it’s standardized testing policy.
“Missouri creates its standardized testing materials by submitting them to the United States Department of Education for Peer Review to document that they meet the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001,” Bushman said. “It is necessary to implement standardized testing to recognize and assess the education our children are receiving. If we didn’t have standardized testing, we wouldn’t be holding our educators accountable for providing an exceptional education to our students. There would be no accountability for them.”
Irwin disagrees with this evaluation of the necessity for standardized testing.
“No child left behind sounds great,” he said, “but in reality it is an impossible standard. Basic psychology tells us that impossible goals are demoralizing and cause most people to give up  This is a huge reason why teacher retention is so low compared to most professions. High stakes standardized tests put so much pressure on teachers and administrators.”
Standardized tests such as the MAP (Measuring of Academic Progress), Grade-level assessments and STAR reading, have all come under fire of late for their inability to properly test  students intelligence.
“The ones [standardized tests] we have are very imperfect, but I don’t want to be the one in charge of creating the perfect one because it can’t be done,” Irwin said. “These are punitive measures to ‘increase standards of education.’”
Irwin is not alone in this thinking. Jodie Bappe, a Rock Bridge junior, also voiced her opinion, calling standardized testing “the worst way to test intelligence.”
Bappe also noted that “although they are such a bad indicator of educational ability, they are the easiest way [to test intelligence], which is why they’re used.”
Overall, Missouri education is being questioned. It is ranked in the bottom 10 on “” and is consistently at or below average for standardized nationwide testing. Missouri is being outperformed.
Despite this, Missouri is improving. Math, science and reading scores in Missouri have all improved during the last 10 years in Missouri.
“Missouri continues to evaluate the criteria to become a teacher as well as the standards set for our educators,” Bushman said. “In the future we hope to increase the quality of our educators.”
By Elliot BonesA single student is so easily lost in a sea of more than 1,800 teenagers, all bumping adolescent elbows and ringing out a cacophony of laughter and complaints in their seven-minute passing time.
Rock Bridge’s colossal population would normally be unmanageable and quite frankly, a zoo. Somehow this has not become the case.
The school boasts a 95 percent graduation rate, with children occasionally attending Ivy Leagues like Stanford and Harvard Universities and overall 63 percent of graduates pursuing a four year college (Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 2014) .
“We are able to achieve a much greater diversity of course offerings and activities,” Dr. Jennifer Rukstad, principal, said.
There are 19 Missouri State High School Activities Association-sanctioned activities offered at RBHS plus multiple other clubs. Dr. Rukstad said this has produced a culture that supports students to get involved with something they are passionate about.
“[Show choir] is like a big family,” sophomore Lily Fisher said. “We are just so close with each other and know each other so well.”
The 60 members of show choir are barely a drop in the bucket compared to the nearly 2,000 people filtering in and out of the building every day. The culture of finding a place to belong in a sport or club has created life skills as well for RB’s students.
“[Extracurriculars] really makes you schedule your time wisely,”civics and U.S. history teacher Chris Fisher said. “You need to learn to manage your schedule so you can do everything you want to.”
The school offers, along with its plethora of extracurriculars, a veritable pantheon of honors and AP classes. It’s no surprise that students complain about homework, but taking classwork home has become unavoidable as some courses have grown to massive sizes like the 60 person studies classes found on any given day in the school.
“It’s difficult at times to cater to individual needs when you’re teaching a class that approaches 60,”  Fischer said. “I don’t have time to sit down with every other student.”
Since RB started to include freshmen studies classes integrated to have both English and social studies as one class everyday. Although the classes have two teachers to teach the students, the system has not been without criticism for its lack of one-on-one interaction.
Despite this, Fischer believes these classes can be beneficial.
“For some kids they thrive in a larger setting simply because with more voices, you have more diversity,” Fischer said. “The benefit really truly is an integrated perspective.”
Junior Erin Barchette notes this diversity in class after attending a small private school until seventh grade. While Barchette believes in a large school it is much harder to get comfortable with a teacher, she also thinks this makes it easier to get help with the anonymity a large class grants. This anonymity drifts into RB’s social sphere, every teen’s most prominent battle field.
“At a big school there’s more people to make friends with. It’s more diverse,” Barchette said. “At a small school, if you don’t already fit into one of the small groups, you’re pretty much scr–d.”
Barchette, whose alternative tendencies and died hair could hardly find a place at the small Lutheran school she used to attend, says she could  finally find a clique that she felt at home in.
“I’ve had to deal with a lot of different people and collaborate them,” Barchette said. “But that’s how its going to be in the real world.”
Maybe that is RB’s greatest success, the students are given no cocoon to protect and they learn how to act with so many others. As they go onto the real world they won’t be surrounded by only a hundred select people. They have the edge on their peers from other schools from their experience in finding their way through a dizzying multitude of people. They can find their place in the crowd so even as they school they will never be lost.
By Skyler Froese Success and failure of schools determine the future of students. Success is what is aimed for, but not all schools are successful enough, to be able to compete regionally, nationally, and ultimately globally with other schools and make their students strive and achieve success in their future.
“This is mostly because of the population in certain areas of Missouri and the lack of strict rules in schools, which reduces the motivation for kids to grow and learn more at school,” Derrick Mitchell, principal at Normandy High School, said.
Missouri has five unaccredited high schools and 25 failing schools. In order for these numbers to increase there needs to be strict rules and regulations at schools and parents should be notified, if students don’t finish their work on time.
The Missouri Board of Education also wants to take into account the ratio of adult to children in a classroom at a school which also plays a major role in the way student learn their skills. The higher the ratio of adult to children in a classroom, the more success rate that school will have in the future.
According to the Board, The effort that teacher and staff put into collaborating and making a sufficient curriculum for students and encourage students to keep improving and developing as they get older. There is never one single factor that is at the core of a successful school:no one structure, or one curriculum, or one set of policies.
“The new high standards [common core], in my opinion, is the most important reformation in contemporary American education,” Brad Griffith, principal at Ladue Horton Watkins High School, said.
According to Griffith Common Core has helped student live up to the higher standards and achieve for more.
Schools are complex organisms that can’t be changed that easily especially because Missouri is growing at a rapid pace and more schools are built [Missouri Board Of Education]. This makes it even harder to create change in the system.
”Rock Bridge has created many opportunities for students to improve at an academic level over the years, but creating new types of classes that the students are interested in,” said Bree Engebritson, World Studies teacher at Rock Bridge High School, “while also giving a chance for them to achieve their field of interest and teachers also have tutor time before and after schools to teach students and get them caught up, get them better at something or even get prepared for a test.”
According to Engebritson, Rock Bridge has created more opportunities over the years to make Rock Bridge a place for students to thrive and learn in their comfort zone.
“The new high standards are making kids work hard and put their effort in it because it counts for a big part of their grade,” Mitchell said. “Students won’t put in their effort unless it is worth something in their grade.”
Another important strategy that successful schools use is that they teach their students increasingly complex and sophisticated material from the start, aiming for their students to exceed standards, which will in turn help ensure that they meet them.
In failing schools, teachers try to teach their students to the state standards and telling them that is the most they need to know, but at successful schools teachers teach them like the state standards the least they should know and set big goal for their students to reach.
“The higher standards [common core] makes students think that it prepares them more for what they need in the outside world,”Griffith said, “and so it makes them dig deeper and gives them the power to tackle any question they are given.”
By Keerthi Premkumar