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A Look at Education in Missouri

Missouri ranks No. 23 in “Best States for Education” from U.S. News & World Report. Here are the facts about education in Missouri. The state has almost 1 million students enrolled in Pre-K through 12th grade in public schools. Almost 68,000 teachers are supporting these students according to Education Week. Education spending is just over $10,000 per student, a little short of the average $11,000 per student.

According to Education Week, minorities make up almost one-third of the student population in Missouri. English-language learners comprise about 3 percent of the student population. About half of all public school students qualify for the free or reduced-price lunch.

In terms of special education, Missouri had more than 8,600 highly qualified special education teachers and almost 9,000 who were not highly qualified per the 2014 U.S. Department of Education report. These 17,600 teachers work with 125,000 Missouri students, or about 14 percent of the student population who receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

How Public Schools in Missouri Fare Compared to U.S. Schools

The Pre-K through 12 rankings from U.S. News & World Report provide a snapshot of how students are performing in each state. Eighth grade students in Missouri rank No. 31 for math and No. 24 for reading. Therefore, their performance falls roughly in the middle when it comes to the U.S.

Missouri fourth grade students are on par with the national average in reading and math according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Quality Counts 2017: Under Construction — Building on ESSA’s K-12 Foundation” from Education Week is an annual report on the state of education in the U.S. Missouri ranks No. 31 and earns a C- grade. While the state remains in the middle of the charts on a national scale, it has room for improvement, as most U.S. states do.

Class Size and Its Effects on Student Achievement

How does Missouri’s teacher-student ratio fare? What is the ideal class size to maximize student achievement? Researchers have studied and debated this for years.

Hanover Research cites a report from the Center for Public Education, reviewing almost 20 studies to identify the following:

  • The greatest benefits come from classes sized 18 or fewer.
  • Teacher experience and preparation is a big factor in the success or failure of class reduction programs.
  • Teacher professional development and curriculum standards can affect student achievement when reducing class size.
  • The success of class size reduction programs depends on having enough classrooms and qualified teachers.

In 2000, Missouri’s student/teacher ratio was 14.1. That number has climbed to 17 in 2017 according to Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education District Student Staff Ratios.

Fortunately, teachers employed in Missouri schools remain in a good position to make a difference in student achievement. They tend to have class sizes at or below the recommended maximum of 18 students.

Hiring more teachers helps keep the number of students per teacher low. Unfortunately, some public school districts struggle to fill positions because of new standards and a large number of retiring teachers from the Baby Boomer generation. On the other hand, researchers like Woessmann argue that the quality of the teacher, school, school system governance and institutional structures, rather than the size of the class, drives student achievement.

Since studies on classroom sizes point out that a highly qualified teacher can positively affect student achievement, teachers may want to consider pursuing a master’s degree or certification to advance their knowledge and improve their teaching methods.

The Benefits of Earning a Master of Science in Education

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), over 65% of teachers working in Missouri possess a master’s degree or higher in the 2017-2018 school year. This may compel people teaching in Missouri to pursue advanced degrees to increase the chances of landing promotions or the jobs they want.

Moreover, NCES data shows that teachers who hold a master’s degree consistently earn more than those with only a bachelor’s degree. Teachers with two or fewer years of experience and a bachelor’s degree earned $36,000 in the 2011-2012 school year.

Teachers with a master’s degree and fewer than five years of teaching earned almost $40,000. The average salary of teachers with six to 10 years of experience was $35,000 for a bachelor’s degree and $43,000 for a master’s degree.

A typical bachelor’s degree helps teachers learn the basics of teaching, classroom management and their content area. A master’s program can help teachers improve in lesson planning and curriculum design to help them adapt to different learning styles and needs.

Graduate programs often focus on educational philosophy, pedagogy, teaching methods and the use of technology in the classroom. An advanced degree may lead to a salary increase, career change, promotion into leadership positions, and becoming a better teacher all around.

Learn more about Northwest Missouri State University’s online Master of Science in Education programs.


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