Reimagining Education

Accountability and Transparency

90 percent of parents think that their children are performing at or above grade level. In reality, only 1 in 3 eighth graders nationwide is actually proficient in reading and math.
Understanding how well your school is doing is key to making sure your child is getting a good education.

Why do accountability and transparency matter?

Whether your child attends a traditional district school, a charter school, or a private school, having good information on the school’s quality is vital to making sure your child is prepared for the future. Strong and transparent performance data is also key to ensuring the educational system is effective and efficient.

Missouri’s system of accrediting school districts uses formulas that often give the appearance that every school is succeeding by relying on data that casts the best light on the school while not focusing on actual student achievement.

When you dig into the data, the facts are disturbing:

  • Only 43% of school children are proficient in English language arts
  • Less than 40% are proficient in math
  • 1 in 10 Missouri public school students are trapped in an underperforming school that, by the state’s own evaluation program, would receive a letter grade of “C,” “D,” or “F.”

How can you get information on your school?

Schools and districts in Missouri receive an Annual Performance Report (APR) score as part of the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP). While this score is created through a complicated formula that diminishes the importance of actual student performance, it is currently the only existing way of comprehensively comparing school performance. A secondary method is by looking at student performance on state MAP tests.

Unfortunately, accessing this information through the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) website can be a complicated and frustrating endeavor. Thankfully, the St. Louis-Post Dispatch has created an easy-to-use interactive site that provides MAP scores, student-teacher ratio, and enrollment data for every school in the state. The Show Me Institute has also created a site focused on giving schools accurate report cards and allowing users to compare schools based on their rankings.

How can the system be improved?

The Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP)

  • DESE tells parents that over 40 percent of fourth and eighth-grade students are proficient readers, less than 30% percent are actually proficient when compared to students in other states.
  • The state is currently redoing its MSIP scoring guidelines which has resulted in a 10-year pause in any accountability for failing schools. According to Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven, student test scores can not be used for accreditation purposes for schools until 2024. “Accountability has a place but we need to stay focused on kids learning every day (and) making sure we’re finding the very, very best teachers in the classroom,” Vandeven said. “These reports can help us or hinder us.”

A-F School Ratings

  • Currently, Missouri does not provide individual school ratings to all parents in a way that is both understandable and accessible. Having a simple “A-F” report card for each public school in Missouri would inform Missouri parents and encourage greater parental involvement. The Show Me Institute has created an unofficial site providing “A-F” grades for every Missouri school.

Do you know how education dollars are spent?

Missouri taxpayers spend about $9 billion annually on public schools in Missouri. Few would dispute that investing in education is important and vital to creating a thriving state. However, it is critical that Missouri taxpayers’ money is well spent and that we all have access to information regarding school finance. Here are some tools to help you track education spending in Missouri:

  • CEAM has created an in-depth description of how the Missouri school funding formula works and included interactive maps that allow you to see how much local and state funding is spent in each district. To view this guide, please click here.
  • The Missouri Accountability Portal provides an in-depth look at how taxpayer money is spent for each agency, including the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. To view the Missouri Accountability Portal, please click here.
  • EducationNext is a non-profit organization that follows trends in school spending around the country. It has a very comprehensive and useful collection of research, data, and expert opinions about transparency and accountability in schools. Visit their website here to find out more.