JEFFERSON CITY • Missouri will aim to have at least 82 percent of its public school students proficient in English and at least 74 percent of students proficient in math by 2026, as part of its federally mandated plan to improve the worst-performing public schools.
The Missouri Board of Education unanimously approved a final draft of the plan Tuesday. The plan is awaiting a signature of support by Gov. Eric Greitens, who can’t veto the plan. The state has until Sept. 18 to submit the plan to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
All states are in the midst of submitting plans on how they will identify, then intervene in their worst-performing public schools. These plans are being mandated for the first time by the federal 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act, also known as ESSA.
ESSA replaces the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. While that effort was recognized for setting higher expectations for schools and bringing attention to the performance of disadvantaged students, it was criticized for imposing an impossible requirement that all students become proficient by 2014.
Missouri’s new plan says the state will aim, over 10 years, to reduce by half the percentage of students who are not graduating and the percentage of students not testing proficient in English and math. That means Missouri’s starting mark in 2017 for reaching that proficiency goal is a 44 percent proficiency rate in math and a 65 percent proficiency rate in English.
The plan also sets a similar goal of reducing the percentage of failing students in groups of historically underperforming groups including low-income students, African-American students, English language learners and those in special education.
Because these subgroups already have lower than average proficiency rates, that means the state’s goals for their progress will be lower. For example, Missouri is aiming for 63 percent of black students to be proficient in math and 70 percent of them to be proficient in English by 2026.
That also means disadvantaged groups will have to make more progress in the same amount of time than their peers.
• Academic proficiency.
• Academic growth (for elementary and middle schools) or graduation rate (for high schools).
A school will be targeted for intervention if one of the following applies:
• The school places in the bottom 5 percent of schools.
• A high school fails to graduate one-third or more of its students.
The state education department estimates that, based on these criteria, 62 schools will fall in the bottom 5 percent and be targeted for intervention. Additionally, the department estimates six high schools will be targeted for intervention because they have a graduation rate below 67 percent.
The department will identify schools for improvement in December 2018.
The Every Student Succeeds Act has been highly anticipated nationwide because it was meant to usher in a new era of more freedom and flexibility for states to pursue better methods of school accountability.
But Missouri is one of a large number of states that are submitting a “skinny plan” that doesn’t propose ambitious or detailed new initiatives for accountability. That’s because in Missouri, school accountability is driven mostly by the state, not by federal law.
“We’ve been saying for some time now ESSA drives about 5 percent of school improvement in Missouri,” said Chris Neale, assistant commissioner for the state education department, at Tuesday’s meeting. “We fortunately have that state-level tool that provides for us the needed levers of school improvement.”
In some ways, the Missouri school improvement Program already features the kind of progressive steps that ESSA is trying to encourage: It includes non-test score indicators such as attendance and graduation rates, it considers students’ academic growth rather than just flat proficiency rates, and it prescribes interventions for failing districts. The extremes of those interventions have ranged from replacing the school boards, as it has done in St. Louis and Riverview Gardens, to taking over a school district, as it has done with Normandy, to disbanding a district entirely, as it did with Wellston.
But evidence of Missouri’s assertiveness in school accountability is largely invisible in its ESSA plan. The plan prescribes no specific interventions for low-performing schools, but instead leaves it up to school districts and charter school networks to pick their own “evidence-based” interventions. The state education department will monitor schools’ progress and require schools to undergo professional development training.
Other states that have already submitted plans have been dinged for failing to propose specific school interventions and for not being ambitious enough. Some have had their plans sent back to them by DeVos for revision. An independent review by Bellwether Education of the 17 plans already submitted shows that several states, including Illinois, had initially proposed “plans that are mostly vague and non-specific on how they will support low-performing schools.”
“This lack of detail is worrying, particularly because of the way ESSA works,” the report stated. “Although ESSA provides some ‘guardrails’ that every state must follow, it leaves significant discretion to individual states.”
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Source : http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/missouri-approves-plan-to-improve-worst-performing-public-schools/article_adc7d15a-47a2-5419-80e9-93bec4cdc921.html