Missouri’s public schools are figuring out their game plan to adjust to the latest state report cards. The 2021-2022 Annual Performance Report (APR), which details overall K-12 public school performance, shows 112 school districts could be at risk of losing full accreditation, if they don’t improve over the next few years.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is using a new system it considers to be more rigorous, putting an emphasis on growth and the performance of each student. Christina Andrade Melly, Missouri’s 2023 Teacher of the Year, said the new ranking system is much more challenging.

“It would be like comparing your grade in one class that you’re taking in 2022 or 2023 to something you took four years ago,” she told Missourinet. “There’s really not a comparison. The assignments are different. The tests are different. So classroom teachers, I think, have that initial gut reaction of, ‘Oh, we’re doing worse. That doesn’t feel good.’ But it’s not really a worse. I think it’s setting a really high bar for education in Missouri, so not to panic if the first time we run that mile we don’t run it to the exact time. This is the starting point.”

Andrade Melly is an English teacher at Ritenour High School in St. Louis County. She recalls a similar initial reaction by some teachers after moving from a previous ranking system to a newer one.

“It felt very heavy and it felt like we had a lot that we needed to do. But how do you eat an elephant? We ate it one bite at a time and day by day in the classroom and sort of step by step in our procedures in how we ran schools and how we worked with students each day. We moved forward and we improved immensely,” said Andrade Melly.

According to the report, four of Missouri’s districts earned the accredited with distinction category in the 2022 school year. In the accredited category, 435 districts reached this level in 2022. As for provisionally accredited, 112 fell within this range, which would put them at risk of losing accreditation. In the 2017-18 school year, only six were deemed as provisionally accredited.

None of Missouri’s charter schools reached the accredited with distinction level. Twenty charter schools would be considered accredited, while 13 fall within the provisionally unaccredited zone. Two charter schools scored within the unaccredited category.

Andrade Melly said her district’s score dropped from 88% in 2018 to 67% last year.

She wants the public to look at the numbers, but to also look beyond them.

“There’s so much more that goes into the school day,” she said. “I’d really encourage them to get close to schools to help fill those needs.”

As some elected leaders work to expand school choice options in Missouri, the timing of the report’s release could fuel their efforts to move the measures towards the finish line. Missouri House Speaker Dean Plocher, R-Des Peres, said he’s “disheartened” by the report cards.

“I think it’s appalling that so many schools are failing,” said Plocher. “I think parents should have choices, I think children should have choices and children should be challenged. Teachers should be rewarded and given the resources that they need to teach.”

Some school choice measures working its way through the legislative system this session include additional state-funded tax credits for private schooling and an expansion of charter schools. The Missouri House of Representatives has also passed an open enrollment bill.

In response to the report cards, House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said there should be “real conversations” about what schools, teachers, and students need to be successful.

“We have a lot of concerns about the scoring mechanism, we have a lot of concerns with where DESE is currently at,” she said. “But for this to be pivoted into any sort of conversation of ‘oh, we need more school choice, our public schools are failing,’ the numbers alone don’t support that.”

Earlier report:

New metrics, pandemic cause notable shifts in Missouri school performance report

Copyright © 2023 · Missourinet