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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Raising the bar - at some point, perhaps

Raising the bar - at some point, perhaps

Posted Wednesday, April 20, 2011, at 9:40 PM

Missouri's public schools will get a reprieve -- for now, anyway -- on stepped-up state standards.State education officials on Wednesday voted to temporarily withdraw from the formal rule-making process a proposal that would raise the bar on public school accountability and performance, according to a Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education news release.

During its regular monthly meeting in Jefferson City, Mo., the State Board of Education approved a recommendation by Commissioner Chris L. Nicastro that the matter be taken off the table until August when it is expected to be reintroduced. At issue is raising the bar in the regulation that sets standards for public schools, the news release said.

The proposed rule was published Friday in the Missouri Register and opened for a formal 30-day comment period. The department continues to collect comments at
Just what all the concern is about is hard to definitively say. Details on the proposal are not easily found on DESE's website, and news releases on the subject are either vague or completely omit specific language on the controversial proposal.

Last month, the board gave preliminary approval to new standards for accrediting Missouri's public schools. The revised policy will go into effect two years after adoption of the proposed standards.
Some of the criteria did not change, but others were made more specific or rigorous to drive improvement in student achievement. The proposed policy also includes reporting data about early childhood programs, successful progression through high school and postsecondary education, and the rate of remedial coursework in college.

The Missouri School Improvement Program is the state's system of accrediting public schools. This update is known as 'MSIP 5.' For decades, the standards have been reviewed and elevated every five years.

Each time DESE goes through the process of raising the bar, stakeholders tend to get nervous, Nicastro said, noting that she wants to "further engage stakeholders."

"We have determined that while MSIP 5 is extraordinarily important in our state, we cannot sacrifice our goals over an objection of 'lack of input,'" Nicastro said. "Giving us a few months to allow for additional input is not irreparable. It is more important to bring our partners along."

Nicastro said an obstacle to gaining support has been a significant amount of misinformation generated in the field, and she believes that additional conversation will clear up concerns.
The six board members attending the meeting said they are not in favor of 'watering down' the standards, the news release states, but there is concern about getting the information out.

"The process that we used might have been more transparent than in the past, but perhaps not as much as needed so that all parties feel they participated," said Board of Education vice president Stan Archie, who presided over the meeting.

"I am reluctant to allow further delay on this," said board member Mike Ponder before the unanimous vote of approval to slow action on the accountability proposal. "It is time to get moving on our goals for the Top 10 by 20 initiative. This is the first critical step." DESE recently unveiled the initiative, which aims to put Missouri public schools on the national top 10 list by 2020.

It's all about raising the bar -- at some point, anyway.

It's about knowledge.

And that's how we live and learn.