Missouri's Report Card
The Hallsville School District has one campus where it teaches all students from K-12, with special emphasis on kindergarteners.
"Because once they start, it's very difficult to get them caught up. The data show that if they're behind in kindergarten, try as hard as we can, they're going to be behind in third grade, they're going to be behind in eighth grade, their dropout percentages are higher," explained Superintendent Tom Baugh.
Hallsville's graduation rate is 98 percent, well above the state and national averages, although Missouri has raised its rate to 75 percent.
Columbia's Rock Bridge High School also has a higher graduation rate than the state and national averages. And 91 percent of Rock Bridge grads attend a two- or four-year college.
"I was just a little bit discouraged with some of the numbers statewide, kind of where we ranked in the nation," said Rock Bridge Principal Andy Kohl.
Baugh believes Missouri's education problems come down to money.
"Across the state there are kids that are being educated for less than half of what some other kids are, and I will challenge anybody to say they're getting the same quality of education," he declared. "It doesn't cost any less to educate a student in southwest Missouri or southeast Missouri than it does in St. Louis."
Despite the state's school struggles, many mid-Missouri districts enjoy widespread success.
"Our unemployment levels are lower, our average education level is higher, our free and reduced rate [for school meals] is lower than it is in lots of other parts in the state," explained Baugh. "We have more parents that have high school diplomas or college diplomas."
Statewide, only one out of every three students has at least one parent with a college degree. Kohl admitted there is room for improvement.
"As a math teacher, too often at parent-teacher conferences I heard parents say, 'Well, I was never good at math either,' and I don't think that's acceptable for us as a district, for us as a state, for us as a nation," he said.
Although money is important, educators agreed parent involvement should be paramount in all school districts.