Despite delays, the Missouri State Board of Education is updating how the state assesses the efficacy of its K-12 schools, and a plan that places less emphasis on standardized tests is expected in a few months.
Board President Charlie Shields said discussing the development of the sixth version of the Missouri School Improvement Plan was one of the things delayed by the board being unable to meet for the first half of this year, but Chris Neale told the board that he expects a more detailed plan of MSIP 6 will be presented in September.
Neale is the assistant commissioner for the Office of Quality Schools with the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Until last week, the state board did not have a quorum to conduct business since January. At that time, Gov. Mike Parson appointed two new board members — reducing the number of vacant seats on the board to three out of eight.
Neale told the board Thursday that statisticians are working on preparing a model to have before the end of the summer to measure how well students are prepared for success after graduation.
"Everything I say has to be written in pencil until we see what the statisticians come up with," Neale said Monday.
Currently, MSIP 5 measures high school readiness for K-8 schools and college and career readiness for high schools.
"My suspicion is that at the end of the day, both the readiness standards are going to be subsumed into one," Neale said.
Shields said Thursday that often when he meets with members of the business community, they think the state is only holding schools accountable to college preparation, and not preparation for the workforce.
Neale explained while that's not true — the current college and career readiness standard incorporates measures for workforce preparation and placement — "we don't currently communicate it well enough," adding it's been difficult to figure out where and how to credit students' attainment of "soft skills."
MSIP 6 could incorporate a measurement of what percent of students at a school graduate with internship or work study experience, he said Monday.
He also anticipates an overall paradigm shift in how much the MSIP 6 will value students' performance on standardized tests.
Neale told the board last week that MSIP 5's emphasis on test scores has caused some ignorance of effective educational practices and made test scores "almost overweighted."
Missouri adopted MSIP in 1990, and the current fifth version has been in use since the 2013 school year.
"I like the word 'balance,'" Neale said Monday of making changes for MSIP 6, adding that test scores are important, but there are other aspects to measuring — and improving — students' success in school.
"Are your children growing a (grade level), or more, every year?" he told the board Thursday of what a central guiding question of MSIP 6 ought to be, adding this should be evaluated at schools that score highly on the state's Annual Performance Review, and those schools that don't.
DESE's APR scores currently measure schools' performances in five areas: academic achievement, subgroup academic achievement, college and career readiness, attendance and graduation rates.
Subgroup refers to five groups of students who have historically had lower performance in school — black, Hispanic, economically-disadvantaged or English Language Learner students, and students with disabilities.
The current APR indicators measure outcomes, are status-oriented and have a group focus, but Neale told the state board Thursday that he anticipates MSIP 6 will also focus on equitable access to quality education and effective practices, be growth-oriented and have more of a focus on individual students.
Equitable access could refer to whether students have access to advanced coursework, he said.
Neale explained Monday that effective practices could refer to "internal collaboration, such as teams of teachers who refuse to let students fail."
An increased focus on individual students might also mean tracking a couple things differently, including how students' status as economically-disadvantaged is defined.
Neale said the Community Eligibility Provision program "prevents us from seeing who is truly economically-disadvantaged and who's not."
The CEP program makes all students at schools that participate in the program eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The percentage of students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch is used to measure the level of poverty at a school or in a school district.
Neale said a better measure of poverty may be to determine how many students are foster children, homeless or are directly-certified as a recipient of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families — things he said that most schools already keep track of.
He also anticipated measuring and comparing how many students are mobile or stable, "just so we can see if a student is with the school system over time" and what effects that has.
"We are not yet ready to make any broad statements about the Annual Performance Report," he said of how changes for MSIP 6 may look on the APR.