Overall High Marks - The Missourian: Opinion

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Posted: Friday, August 30, 2013 6:32 pm

Last week the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released its 2013 Missouri School Improvement Program ratings.

The annual performance reports show how well each public school and school district is meeting the state’s education standards. They are also used to determine accreditation.

The state used a new rating system this year evaluating districts on data such as standardized test scores, attendance, graduation rates and whether students leave ready for college or careers. The new system judges districts on percentage earned on a point scale unlike the old rating system which used a 14-point scale.

The new system puts schools and districts under the microscope on a broader range of factors and criteria. It is generating a buzz in academic circles and among education officials as school districts and parents digest how they fare in the various subcategories under the new ratings system.

Because state accreditation is at stake, the ratings are critical to schools that are struggling or are borderline in meeting the state’s minimum academic performance standards.

Any district scoring over 70 percent is considered fully accredited. Provisionally accredited is considered less than 70 percent, while unaccredited is less than 50 percent.

Unaccredited schools have been the subject of an intense amount of scrutiny after the Missouri Supreme Court recently upheld a law that said students in those failing districts could be eligible to transfer to better school systems.

Fortunately that isn’t the case here locally. All of the school districts in Franklin County scored well enough under the new system to maintain state accreditation. Those school districts and their overall ratings include:

• Franklin County R-II — 100 percent;

• New Haven — 95 percent;

• Washington — 91.1 percent;

• St. Clair R-XIII — 88.6 percent;

• Meremec Valley R-III — 87.1 percent;

• Union R-XI — 75.7 percent.

State education officials maintain that the new rating system sets the bar higher for education in Missouri. Perhaps that’s the case. We are not qualified to weigh in on the merits of the new rating system versus the old.

What we do know is that overall we have good schools in this county and the annual performance scores bear that out. Are there specific areas that can be improved on within each district? Without question.

But the fact that all of the school districts in our county meet accreditation standards is critical to the health and well-being of the county.

The correlation between education and quality of life is undeniable.

The quality of schools and the education opportunities they provide are one of the main factors people use in determining where they choose to live. The same is true for companies that are looking to relocate or build a new plant or expand.

Education drives local economic development. The overall skill level of the local labor force is one of the key drivers of local job growth and wage growth.

We are fortunate to live in a place where the schools are performing well.

/opinion

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