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With C- grades, Missouri and Illinois score below average in educational survey

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 18, 2010 - Missouri earned a below-average grade in Education Week's latest Quality Counts survey. The average score for all states was 75.9 or a C. Missouri ranked 40th among the states with a C- and a score of 72.4; Illinois ranked 41st with a C- score of 71.8. Maryland ranked highest with a B+ overall score, followed by Massachusetts and New York.

The report tracks a state's overall performance on several school issues, ranging from academic achievement, teacher qualifications and school finances. Education Week, a magazine, says the latest survey results show that many states continue to face a struggle to deliver high-quality education for their students.

In a statement, Missouri Education Commissioner Chris L. Nicastro noted that Missouri earned grades of B-minus in the areas of standards, assessment and accountability; a C-plus on the student chance for success index; a C in the teaching profession category, and a C-minus on school finance. She also noted that Missouri's overall score of C- was the same as last year's score.

"There is no reason for us to be satisfied with C-level performance," she said. She added that Missouri had a good chance of making significant gains, notwithstanding its mostly C scores on the latest national report card. The opportunity to move to the top tier of states will depend in part on whether the state wins a share of the highly competitive Race to the Top funding, she said. This is the $4.3 billion grant program that will be awarded on the basis of strong school-improvement proposals.

She said this week that Missouri was putting the finishing touches on its Race to the Top application, which has to be submitted to the federal government by Tuesday, Jan. 19. The application will also be discussed at the Missouri Board of Education's meeting on Wednesday in Jefferson City.

She said Missouri got more than 5,000 responses in a relatively short time in its survey for ideas about what should be in its Race to the Top application. The agency also got letters of support from more than 150 business executives, civic organizations, higher education institutions, state agency leaders, education-related associations and others.

Nicastro says winning a share of the money "will translate into a much better report card for Missouri in the future."

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