Reimagining Education

What grade should Missouri get for transparency?

Do you know how well your school is doing?

Under the new Every Student Succeeds Act, the answer to that question should be an easy “YES!” but in Missouri, the best a parent can hope for is a “kind of?”

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has done a major overhaul of its accountability website with the intent of making that data easier to access, but the site still has a long way to go.

The new site provides nice, easy to access graphs for statewide data, but this information is almost meaningless because the state uses its own accountability measures so this data is not comparable to surrounding states.

Finding data on a specific school or district still requires a deep dive into the old web interface and plowing through numerous gigantic spreadsheets, making it hard for the average parent to compare their child’s school or district with alternatives.

More troubling, the state is still not providing required reporting data.

What does DESE still need to tell us?

A new report by the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) looks at how well states across the country are doing with complying with the ESSA requirements for data transparency.

The results are mixed with the main finding being that state report cards are easier to find but not necessarily easy to understand.

In Missouri, the report finds that DESE is not providing translated data, leaving non-English speakers no way to get adequate information.

Missouri also, according to DQC, does not offer a PDF version of the data that can be viewed offline.

According to the DQC report, Missouri does not provide information on student growth, differentiate between scores on a basis of gender (something that has been required by law for almost 20 years) nor for students who are migrants or homeless. DESE also does not provide information on the number of inexperienced teachers or teachers teaching outside of their field.

Most troubling is that the DQC ranks the reading level required to understand the data on the portal as a grade 17, meaning that you would need five years of college to completely understand the data. According to the most recent census data (2017) only 29.1 percent of Missourians over 25 have a bachelors degree.

The DQC has created a scavenger hunt for parents and citizens to see how well their state is doing in providing school data. Check it out for yourself here and see how easily you can find these key data points about your school.

Clearly, DESE has a long way to go to providing clear and useful data for parents.

Time for a better way of reporting school data

Wouldn’t it be great if we could understand how well our schools are doing at educating our children as easily as we could understand how our children are doing in those schools.

When our kids come home with their report cards we know an “A” means they are doing well (at least by the standards of the school they are in) and if they have an “F” we know they need to do more work.

Understanding how well our schools are doing should be just as easy for parents. After all, an “A” grade for a student in a school that is underperforming (and would get an “F” on a letter based reporting standard) doesn’t mean that much.

But if we don’t how well our schools are doing there is no way we as parents can know that.

DESE should take a cue from other states like Florida or North Carolina that provide parents with easy to understand information about their schools.

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