Comparing Small School Districts

5 Jan

The Post-Dispatch had a story on New Year’s Day about the Strain-Japan School District in Franklin County, which consists of just one elementary school but has had great academic success:

The school is one of about 70 elementary-only, mostly rural, single-school districts in Missouri that receive little attention in the education arena. When they do, they’re often cited by education reform advocates as proof of what they think is an expensive, excessive number of school districts in Missouri.

But Strain-Japan’s test scores regularly rival and even best those of St. Louis’ wealthy and renowned school districts, while operating at a fraction of the cost.

This brought to mind JeffCo’s elementary-only school district, Sunrise, south of De Soto and 55 miles southeast of Strain-Japan. This district doesn’t do so well, showing up in the bottom half of county schools in performance ratings, though it ticked up in 2016. I thought I would compare some numbers between the two districts. These are from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) website:


Along with the test scores, the other numbers definitely favor Strain-Japan: less poverty, higher tax rate, more spending per student. Taken together, these certainly explain some of the discrepancy, but the difference in test scores is quite significant. People in the Sunrise district will want to study the P-D article, and maybe take a field trip out to Sullivan, MO, to learn more about how Strain-Japan has been so successful.

Note: Sunrise just passed a bond measure in August, so the district will be getting more money soon, which will be spent on district buildings and infrastructure.

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