SCHOOL districts in Northeast Missouri received annual performance reports for 2017 that ranged from good to outstanding.
Eight of the 12 school districts in the region scored above 90 percent on the reports compiled by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. In fact, the Marion County R-2 School District in Philadelphia received a perfect score on its students' academic achievement; college and career readiness; attendance; graduation rate; and achievement by subgroups, such as students with disabilities.
That perfect score, one of only 39 in the state, is all the more remarkable considering that Marion County R-2, with 120 students, is the smallest school district in the region and has the lowest property tax base from which to generate funds.
Sarah Potter, communications coordinator for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, told The Herald-Whig that the statewide average annual performance report score was 89.5 percent and that only seven districts out of 517 had scores below 70 percent.
"All of our (statewide) grade level assessments, all of our content areas, have been on an upward trend for the last five years," Potter said.
Most important, Northeast Missouri schools reflect that upward trend and beat the statewide average in many areas.
For example, four districts -- Canton R-5, North Shelby, Monroe County R-1 and Scotland County R-1 -- had no dropouts in the 2017 reports. None of the region's schools exceeded 3 percent dropout rates, and only two were higher than the statewide average of 2.2 percent.
Meanwhile, ACT scores, which are seen as a barometer for college readiness, ranged from a high of 21.2 at Scotland County R-1 to a low of 18.4 at Lewis County C-1. The statewide average was 20.2.
However, Northeast Missouri does consistently trail state averages in terms of salaries and tax rates.
Scotland County Superintendent Ryan Bergeson explained that a low tax rate, coupled with a small equalized assessed valuation, leaves his district with limited resources to boost salaries.
"Our School Board is very supportive of our staff and administration, and they would love to give us more, but they have to work within their means," Bergeson said.
These report cards for schools show that area students have access to a quality education. The scores speak well of the teachers, administrators and other staff who do their jobs well, and they're proof that the size of a district does not predetermine its success.
While taxpayers, parents and students in Northeast Missouri can rightfully take pride in what their schools have accomplished, one of the greatest challenges in the years ahead will be ensuring that financial support keeps pace with the demands being placed on their schools.