Scores from the 2015 Annual Performance Report (APR) issued by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) would have parents and the community believe that public education is back on track in Missouri. Over 98% of Missouri school districts are in the accredited range, which only requires an APR score of 70% or better.
On January 12, 2016 the Missouri State Board of Education voted to revisit the accreditation status of the Riverview Gardens School District in north St. Louis County despite that district having among the very worst student test scores in the state. Just 12% of students scored proficient or above in math and only 23% of students scored proficient or better in English language arts on the 2015 Missouri Assessment Program. From 2006 to 2013, the average ACT score for Riverview students was 16.1 yet most universities require an ACT score of 18 or better. It doesn’t add up.
The State Board’s decision to conduct a special review of Riverview Gardens’ accreditation status is based on gains made in the district’s APR score in 2015 and was requested by district leaders. While the progress is important and should be recognized, the most recent APR score does not mark a momentous turnaround in the life of Riverview Gardens School District or the proficiency of most of its students. Instead it reflects an APR formula weighted to reward moving students in the below proficiency categories (from below basic to basic) while few students achieve actual proficiency.
Hundreds of students have taken advantage of the opportunity under Missouri state law 167.131 to transfer out of their unaccredited home district in order to get a better education. Their chance to continue to attend higher performing schools is tied to district accreditation statuses that seem to look better than ever despite very little change in student proficiency. If the state board and DESE give Riverview Gardens an accredited classification these students could be forced to leave the schools they now call home.
It normally takes DESE years of work along with input from of educators, parents and stakeholders to create each version of the Missouri School Improvement Program (currently MSIP5). Now in matter of a few months, at the direction of the State Board, they have created an ad hoc evaluation of Riverview Gardens’ accreditation comprised of a student achievement test and performance measures that are not being used elsewhere in the state for determining accreditation. Inserting a one-time evaluation process does not help parents understand district performance, but it may easily help the district avoid being subject to the transfer law.
With one vote to reaccredit, the Missouri State Board of Education would finally make an end run around a law that has given students in failing districts a choice about their education. These appointed leaders must take responsibility for making real student achievement a priority in evaluating district and school performance and not embrace a misleading formula result or a single one-time process in determining accreditation.
Tell decision makers at Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education why you think #NumbersMatter via email at firstname.lastname@example.org , via twitter @MOEducation, or at the next State School Board Meeting (calendar here)[wpsocialite]