The Missouri State Board of Education endorsed a plan Friday aimed at boosting state involvement in struggling schools.
Districts will be classified in tiers based upon their performance, with the amount of state intervention increasing as performance worsens. The most significant state interventions would be aimed at school systems that are provisionally accredited or unaccredited. Officials also would have flexibility to consider the conditions within each district when deciding what action to take.
The plan was developed by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
“This is not a one-size-fits-all plan,” Deputy Commissioner Margie Vandeven said.
The board also directed state education officials to start work on using the newly approved framework to develop specific plans for individual districts.
Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro said the process likely would start with an overview of the unaccredited and provisionally accredited districts. She said more discussion would be needed with lawmakers about the funding needed to implement the plan. She said further adjustments to the intervention plan are possible.
Officials have been considering proposals for Missouri schools since a law took effect last year giving the education department greater powers to intervene in unaccredited districts.
Missouri’s unaccredited districts currently are Kansas City, Normandy and Riverview Gardens. There are 11 provisionally accredited districts, including Hickman Mills in the Kansas City area. Accreditation status is not affected by the intervention plan.
Board Vice President Mike Jones said the agency is moving to be more active in ensuring that districts perform.
“You see us moving to say that if we’re responsible for all children having a quality education in the 21st century, we need to exercise that responsibility in a proactive manner,” he said.
Under the plan, school districts in the top tier will have access to state support but not be required to use it. An early alert will trigger greater state involvement when an accredited district has slipped toward scoring in the provisional range, shown a decline in performance during the previous two years or has a low-performing school.
State action would pick up for the third tier covering provisionally accredited districts. Binding performance contracts would be enacted between the local school boards and the state that set performance targets and require steps such as early childhood education or longer school days. Targeted audits could be used to examine issues such as community involvement and curriculum.
The increased attention upon provisionally accredited districts is an effort to prevent the schools from becoming unaccredited.
Districts that become unaccredited are subject to state review over how they are governed. The State Board of Education could keep the local school board in place or it could swap out the local school board for a special administrative board or select another governance structure reporting to the state education commissioner.
The state also could lapse an unaccredited district, which would dissolve it.
When a district has been lapsed, there would be several options such as contracting with neighboring districts to operate schools, assigning students to another school district or forming new school systems within the lapsed district.
The education department’s plan does not change a student transfer policy that requires unaccredited school districts to pay for students to attend better-performing schools in other districts.
Missouri lawmakers are considering bills that take aim at the transfer law.