We all know that not every school is the same. Some do better in academics, and some do worse. Some have great extracurricular options, others have none. But if you were to ask the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) about school performance in the state, it would have you believe that there is consistently high performance across the board. In 2017, nearly 99 percent of Missouri public school districts were awarded full accreditation. If accreditation really reflected a district’s excellence that would be great, but research shows a wide variation in performance even across accredited districts.
The Stanford Education Data Archive (SEDA) analyzed data on test scores in math and English for students in third grade in 2009 and then again in eighth grade in 2014 for Missouri school districts. The data show great variation in district performance in the number of years of academic growth students achieve between third and eighth grade. In some districts, students only learned three years of content during their five years in the classroom, whereas in others, students gained over six years of learning.
My new essay “Beyond APR: How Are Missouri Schools Really Doing?” compares DESE’s scoring system, the Annual Performance Report (APR), and accreditation methods with SEDA’s data on Missouri school district performance. The comparison indicates that the APR scores and accreditation status given to districts bear little relation to a school district’s true academic performance.
As DESE redesigns the Missouri School Improvement Plan (MSIP) accreditation system, which will be in its sixth iteration once the redesign is complete, the top priority should be to provide clear and useful information for parents. Every Missouri parent should be aware of how his or her child’s school district is doing relative to other districts in the state. Is it really enough to know that a district has cleared an accreditation bar so low that less than two percent of the public schools in the state failed to be accredited? It’s up to DESE to provide meaningful reports on school performance.
To read the essay, click the link below.