Reimagining Education

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MO Lagging on College Readiness

Kate Casas, State Director, Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri

More than half of Missouri’s students are likely to struggle when they enroll in college math and science courses according to the ACT’s The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2012.   The study, released Wednesday, reports that just 46% of MO’s 2012 graduating high school seniors received the skills during their K-12 experience that prepared them for college math courses. The number is worse for science where just 33% were found to be ready for what they will face in university science labs. Overall, just 27% of Missouri students who took the test in 2012 were ready for college in all four subject areas test on the ACT.

Unfortunately, these numbers are relatively unchanged from last year. The reason the scores are unchanged is because the way education is delivered to Missouri students is unchanged. As Albert Einstein could tell us, Missouri can’t keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result.

If Missouri wants it’s students to graduate high school ready for college, there must be some sweeping reform of Missouri’s education system. The following systemic policy changes could drastically improve the college and career readiness of Missouri’s students:

Teacher Quality – the single most important factor affecting student achievement is teacher quality.  As a result CEAM recommends the following to ensure the best teachers are in front of MO classrooms:

  1. Teacher Evaluations- A majority of a teacher’s evaluation should based on student achievement.
  2. Last In First Out- Decisions about teacher lay offs should be made based on teacher effectiveness and not years of services.
  3. Indefinite Contracts- The practice of awarding indefinite contracts, also referred to as tenure, to teachers after just five years should be ended.

Parental Choice – education providers should not longer be allowed to take student enrollment for granted. Years of data have proven that competition among education providers creates an environment of innovation and excellence. Thus, increasing the number of options for parents across the state ensures parents can choose a school that has a proven track record of preparing students for college and career. Implementation of the following program would increase competition for students among schools:

  1. Scholarship tax credits- a scholarship awarded to a student in primary or secondary school who wishes to attend a non-public school. The individual or organization that makes a donation for the scholarship is awarded a tax credit.
  2. Charter schools- a primary or secondary school that receives public money, but operates independently of the traditional public school system.
  3. Interdistrict open enrollment- allows parents to choose the public school they wish to send their children to even if it lies outside of their resident school district boundaries.
  4. Vouchers- a certificate awarded by the government to a student who wishes to attend a non-public school.

Transparency and Accountability – providing the consumer with information about school spending, and school, teacher and student performance is the best way to ensure schools are meeting children’s needs.  Additionally, it is widely acknowledged that policies that support greater transparency and accountability ensure that a free market educational system is effective and efficient.

  1. School ranting system- The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary education should publish a clear and easily understood rating system that informs parents, students, and other stakeholders about the job their schools are doing preparing students for college and careers.
  2. School spending- Parents, students, and other stakeholders should be able to hold officials accountable for how tax dollars are being spent to educate Missouri’s children. Additionally, parents, students, and other stakeholders should be able to influence how those dollars are spent to best meet the needs of each individual child.

Each of these policy changes will take a lot of work and implementing them will require massive cooperation among all levels of government, parents, students, and taxpayers. However, the cost of not doing it is far too high to continue doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

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