Missouri School Superintendents Band Together To Influence MSIP Changes
By Echo Menges
The Missouri State Board of Education has been putting statewide standards in place for Missouri’s school districts since 1950. The standards set by the BOE are what determines a school district’s classification and whether or not they will receive state accreditation. To receive state funding a school district must first be accredited by the state.
In 1990 the BOE adopted classification standards which measure a school district’s performance over a five year cycle called the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP), which they credit with stimulating significant progress in school districts throughout the state. Since it’s conception there have been four five year cycles of the MSIP classification and accreditation process. The MSIP 5, or the fifth cycle, will begin in 2012.
Earlier this month the BOE was expected to approve proposed changes to the MSIP state performance standards which would take immediate effect and be implemented during the fifth, rapidly approaching cycle, which is why Knox County R-1 School District Superintendent, Andy Turgeon, and two other Missouri Superintendents, David Tramel from Canton and Jim Masters from Monroe City, went to the BOE meeting in Jefferson City November 16, 2010.
“We went because of some of the issues being presented at that meeting that affect school districts in regards to school evaluation and (the) fifth cycle.” Said Turgeon. “The criteria they are proposing really affects the school districts and how much control we have over what we’re being evaluated on.”
One of the “proposed performance standards” before the BOE for K-12 school districts is the requirement of the percent of students who score in the top quintile (top 20%) nationally on the ACT or SAT meet, exceed the state standard, or demonstrate improvement.
“ACT is a norm reference test and that’s why they’ve used it in the past saying this is the norm for the nation. They want students to score above the norm. What happens with a test like that is if a lot of students are scoring above the norm (it’s going to push up the curve).” Said Turgeon. “(Another) thing they’re looking at is evaluating districts on how many kids take the ACT. They would like to see all the kids take the ACT but not every student needs to take the ACT. A student going into a career technical school is not going to need the ACT test.”
The proposed changes in front of the BOE would make ACT test scores a determining factor on whether or not a school district would get their accreditation.
“They want schools to implement Advanced Placement tests, International Baccalaureate tests, and Technical Skills Attainment tests. We don’t give AP (tests) because we have dual credit and our students are allowed to benefit from dual credit.” Said Turgeon. “In AP students take the class and at the end of the class they take a test and if they pass the test they get credit whereas dual credit the college is teaching the class to the students and they get the credit. If we were required to give the AP tests we would have to send our teachers for training, which would cost us more money.”
According to Turgeon, when he was teaching Calculus in Canton that school district was paying, roughly, $83 per student to test.
“It’s not cheap by any means.” Said Turgeon.
Another portion of the proposed standards Turgeon has issue with is the requirement of “the percent of students who successfully progress from ninth grade through high school graduation within five years to attend postsecondary education and graduate with either an associate’s degree within three
years or a bachelor’s degree within six years” of graduation.
“How do we have control over whether or not they successfully complete college? How many students go to college and change their degree or majors? How many students go to college and don’t have enough money to complete college? How many students go to college and decide it’s not for them? How many students don’t even need to go to college because mom and dad own a very successful business and they’re going to take it over? These are all factors we have no control over.”
It’s not just high school and college level students the proposed standards are limited to. There are proposed standards that would begin testing and tracking children as young as three years old.
“What they’re looking at is testing three, four, and five year olds to see if they’re ready for kindergarten. How are we supposed to be evaluated on that basis? Especially after they cut our Parents as Teachers funding and cut our early childhood funding. Yet, now we’re supposed to test these kids and we’re going to be held responsible as to whether or not these kids are making adequate progress.” Said Turgeon. “Who’s going to pay for these tests? Funding is another issue. They’re going to expect the schools to pay for it. These are the issues we are concerned about.”
The Knox County R-1 School District has been receiving less and less state funding over the last several years. The transportation budget has been one of the hardest hit by state budget cuts. In the 2009-10 school year KCR-1 received $128K from the state for transportation. This school year they will receive $72K.
“Our transportation department has to cover the second largest area in the state. They’re saying next year we may not get any transportation money. We’re going to go down to receiving nothing for transportation and our transportation budget alone is $550K a year. The problem is, even if enrollment is decreasing, we still have the same amount of area to cover. We’re still going to have students at the extremes of our district, at the extremes of the county that we have to go pick up.” Said Turgeon.
The KCR-1 District has to cover a 499 square mile area, and is second to the Putnam County R-1 School District.
“It’s not that the state has ever paid for our full transportation budget but the fact that we’ve went from $180K to zero in four years is huge.” Said Turgeon. “But that’s not the biggest part of it. The biggest part of it is the state’s foundation formula. The state has a foundation formula they use to figure out how much each school district will get. The state foundation formula has not been fully funded so the federal government picked up part of what the state was not funding. What they call it is federal stabilization money. In the last few years we’ve received federal stabilization money from the federal government to make up for what the state is not giving us for the foundation formula. Last year we got $223K from the federal government. This year we’re going to get about $189K from the federal government. The federal government has told us that next year they’re not going to do it anymore so there’s $189K we’re not going to get from the federal government. In addition to that the state is saying our funding for next year is going to be down eight percent of what we should get. If the economy doesn’t get any better our funding from the state could go down 18 percent.”
“The biggest blow is loosing about $200K from the federal and about $300K from the state.” Said Turgeon. “This is just next year. That doesn’t speak to anything about what things are going to look like the year after that.”
All of the MSIP proposed changes issues combined with major budgetary limitations are what brought Superintendents Turgeon, Tramel, and Masters together to approach the BOE and express their concerns about the MSIP proposed standards for the coming fifth cycle. The group first drafted a letter outlining each of these concerns and then made it a point to have a presence at the crucial November BOE meeting in Jefferson City where the BOE was expected to approve the proposed standards.
“We were not on the agenda to talk. When they had the Board meeting they had our letter in front of them, the Board members did. They felt there were too many concerns with the proposed new assessment criteria to proceed with it. So they basically tabled it and told the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education they need to go back to it and address these concerns. They go back in January to vote. I will probably go back in January to see what the results are and what the discussions are.” Said Turgeon. “Our thoughts are, if we don’t have a voice the decisions they make are not going to reflect what we need in education. That was our purpose of going down to the Board meeting. We put the letter together and felt the letter would not be enough. We need to be present in order to make sure our voices are heard.”
Turgeon emphasized the importance for parents to stay involved and pay attention to what’s happening on the state level in both the Missouri Legislature and Board of Education. The next time the BOE meets in Jefferson City they are expected to vote on the MSIP 5 proposed changes. That meeting will be held January 19, 2011. The revised MSIP 5 proposed performance standards are expected to be available to the public in January and can be found at www.dese.mo.gov along with a complete listing of all of the state BOE meetings, Board members, and their contact information.