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Aggressive Approach to Academic Achievement

Chris Mathews
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMOX/ Capitol Bureau) - The Department of Education unveiled a proposal that takes a more aggressive approach to avoiding the loss of accreditation for school districts across the state.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education drafted the Missouri School Improvement Program to help school districts that fall into the provisionally accredited group. According to the program’s report, “such districts, are not providing children with education that meets the state’s standards for academic achievement.”

“It is not okay to continue to support failure,” said Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro. “Any school and any school district that allows its children to not succeed, academically and in other ways, is not serving their interests well.”

The program would serve as a preventive measure to keep a district from becoming unaccredited, a problem plaguing school districts in both Kansas City and St. Louis. The program does not include specific plans for the Kansas City, Riverview Gardens and Normandy school districts that are currently unaccredited and facing serious financial turmoil.

On Tuesday, the State Board of Education approved a recommendation to impose financial oversight over the Normandy School District. This includes all expenditures, contracts, financial obligations and any other action with fiscal implications.

“Most importantly, we want Normandy students and their parents to know the students will be able to complete the school year in their current location,” said Nicastro. “Seniors who meet state and local requirements for graduation will receive their diplomas from Normandy as scheduled.”

Rural areas are also a big target for the program. According to Nicastro, there are provisionally accredited schools in the Bootheel and rural Missouri that require preventive action.

“The basic concept is that the higher the performance of a school district, the less support and intervention they need from the department,” said Nicastro during a news conference. “Our resources, time, efforts and interventions would be focused primarily on those districts that need the most help.”

In the cases of provisionally accredited school districts, an audit would be performed assessing teacher and leader effectiveness, quality of instruction, school governance and finance. After reviewing the audit findings, an improvement team would be instated. This team would be responsible for the implementation of a performance contract, which would bind the district and schools to annual targets, ultimately aiming to keep the schools from failing their students any further.

“We have taken a position that…we take a far earlier look at school districts, and that we intervene much earlier in the process,” said Nicastro.

The program still needs approval from the state Board of Education in their meeting next month.

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