State Demographics

  • Schools
    Total Enrollment 910,386
  • Total Enrollment
    Schools 2,424
  • Economically Disadvantaged Students
    Economically Disadvantaged Students 51%
  • Students with Disabilities
    Students with Disabilities 14.4%
  • English Language Learners
    English Language Learners 3.8%
  • Students attending Urban Schools
    Students Attending Urban Schools 18.5%
  • Students attending Rural Schools
    Students Attending Rural Schools 26.6%
  • Graduation Rate
    Graduation Rate 88.3%

Data source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Common Core of Data (CCD). Graduation Rate data are from 2016/17; all other data are from 2017/18.

State Story
District Stories

State Story : March 2020 – April 2021

March 2020

School Closures

Dr. Margie Vandeven, Missouri's appointed Commissioner of Education, was sitting in a meeting on March 11th talking about COVID "what-ifs" when the global pandemic was announced in the meeting. Within two days, the Governor declared a state of emergency and schools were closed.

Initial Decisions and Approach
  • Focused on taking care of the Whole Child as well as LEA and SEA staff.
  • Provided social and emotional support.
  • Addressed educational access and the Digital Divide.
SEA and LEA Role Delineation
  • The SEA role was to provide support to LEAs, in some cases by removing policy barriers.
  • Barrier removal meant reviewing state statute and applying for waivers in some cases.
  • A well-structured state system with connected departments helped the state implement a coordinated response.
Supportive Partners or Resources
  • Governor’s office activated a coordinated cross-agency state response.
  • Supportive state partners included the state’s school board, educators, state legislators, and business leaders.
  • Leaned on other state chiefs as thought partners.
Margie Vandeven
Dr. Margie Vandeven Missouri Commissioner of Education

"The immediate response was thinking about how will these kids be fed, how do we make sure that they're getting the resources that they need to be able to engage in any kind of educational opportunity, and so just this really quick and deep understanding of how much our schools really do and how much our families count on us to deliver and making sure that we're taking care of our children."

— Margie Vandeven , Commissioner of Education

July 2020

School Re-Opening

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education provided LEAs with a health and safety-related guidebook.

Re-opening Approach
  • Emphasized the need to reach every child to ensure they were both safe and learning.
  • Acknowledged that LEA leaders were “stretched very thin.”
  • Encouraged communities to support their local leaders as they grappled with challenging decisions related to re-opening.

"If you make a decision to open in-person, there's a whole slew of people that are unhappy that you did that. If you make a decision to open remote, there's a whole bunch of people that are unhappy. If you make a decision to do a hybrid, almost everybody is unhappy because you haven't met everybody. I just support them [local education leaders] to the core. They're doing amazing work out there, but they are in a heck of a position right now."

— Margie Vandeven , Commissioner of Education

What Comes Next

Next Steps
  • Continue meeting LEA needs now and after the virus is gone.
  • Tackle tough issues like assessment, equity, and educational access.
  • Provide “grace” through policy adjustments.
  • Address budget gaps.

"I told the superintendents at this year’s virtual administrators conference that ‘pivot’ was the key word for the last 6 months: pivot, pivot, pivot. The new word, I think, is going to be ‘re-imagine.’ We have to understand what worked, what didn't work, re-imagine it to a degree and really just make the best out of what was not a good situation and grow from it."

— Margie Vandeven , Commissioner of Education

August 2020 – December 2020

Re-Opening Plan Implementation

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, along with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, released re-opening guidelines for schools in early August 2020. The guidelines contained clear virus mitigation strategies but did not include mandates for re-opening. Re-opening decisions were left to local school boards and local jurisdictions.

Status of School Models
  • Many schools began the year "in-person."
  • There was widespread concern about student engagement and learning loss.
  • Leaders were focused on adjusting to a "new normal."
Margie Vandeven workign with a student in a classroom

"I do not see online education replacing the classroom. I do not see that happening in the future. I do see it enhancing what's happening in the classroom. I do see it presenting all sorts of opportunities for our students that may have not existed previously."

— Margie Vandeven , Commissioner of Education

January 2021

Recover and Rebuild

As Missouri saw progress in virus mitigation, schools continued to make local decisions about in-person learning. Commissioner Vandeven learned about the diverse needs of the state’s 555 LEAs through frequent communication with nine State Supervisors of Instruction. Through those communications, the Commissioner identified a need to focus on the whole child, equity, retaining and supporting teachers, assessment during the pandemic, and the thoughtful investment of relief funds.

Recover and Rebuild Section Two

Priorities (January 2021 – End of Year)
  • Continued focusing on the Whole-Child.
  • Examined data to understand impact of digital divide on student engagement.

"This is just such a hard thing to accept, but it’s reality. Some of our kids are absolutely thriving in this new environment and some have not had an educational experience since last March. When they come back, it will be our obligation as educators to make sure that they're fully prepared for the next phase of their lives."

— Margie Vandeven , Commissioner of Education

Recover and Rebuild Section Three

Retaining and Supporting Teachers and Staff
  • Addressed teacher retention and burnout.
  • Supported teachers and counselors.
  • Protected time for teacher and staff self-care.

"Teachers are doing everything they can to reach children, but it's drastically different when all of a sudden, you are thrust into an online environment versus in-person. Even in-person right now is different when we're trying to maintain social distancing…so typical interaction has shifted."

— Margie Vandeven , Commissioner of Education

Recover and Rebuild Section Four

Rethinking Assessment
  • Planning for a spring assessment.
  • Extending testing window to allow schools to offer remote or in-person formats.
  • Identifying priority learning standards to maximize instructional time.
  • Examining results to understand the relationship of delivery models and technology access to students.
Investing Relief Funds
  • Ramping up COVID-19 testing and vaccines for teachers.
  • Addressing classroom spacing requirements.
  • Funding PPE and additional cleaning procedures.
  • Addressing acceleration of learning.

"Early on, I said ‘we need information going forward.’ When it became clear that the pandemic was going to last for an extended period of time, [we knew] we needed answers. The important thing to do is always know what questions to ask and what information to get. So we sat down early on and said ...'Okay, what will we need to know?'"

— Margie Vandeven , Commissioner of Education

Recover and Rebuild Section five

Assessment and Accountability
  • Identify key questions you want answered as early as possible to understand what data to collect and analyze.
  • Understand that while formal state-level accountability may be suspended during a major disruption like a pandemic, the general public may continue to hold schools accountable for student performance.

"The other expression I keep saying to our superintendents is, ‘How far can you run into the woods?’ And it's a trick question because eventually you’ll be running out. But hopefully we’re running out of the woods, and it is just going to be so important that we’re prepared for that and greeting every child and making sure that we meet them where they are and take them to where they need to be."

— Margie Vandeven , Commissioner of Education

April 2021

Planning for Summer and Next Year

Reflecting on In-Person Learning
  • Reopening looked different across Missouri’s 555 local education areas (LEAs) as it is a diverse, local control state. While needs across LEAs varied, safety and well-being were a primary focus for all.
  • Vandeven expressed concern about the great social-emotional needs found across the state.
  • Even though COVID-19 still exists, Vandeven asserts there is “Light at the end of the tunnel” due to the availability of vaccines.