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Issue Background

Accreditation

MSBA supports a statewide accreditation system that reflects high standards and provides for local flexibility in improving student achievement.

MSBA Advocacy Position III.C. Accreditation System

House Bill 942 (Haffner) would dramatically change the Missouri school accreditation system. Both school buildings and school districts would be accredited. At least 70% of the rating would be based on student growth, as evidenced by standardized tests, and the bill details a formula for how growth is to be calculated. Any school building performing in the bottom 10% of the state would be classified as unaccredited. Any building in the bottom 25% is classified as provisionally accredited.

Any school district with 50% or more of its attendance centers classified as unaccredited must be classified as unaccredited. If 25% of the buildings are unaccredited, then the district is provisionally accredited. If 50% or more of the buildings are either provisionally accredited or unaccredited, the district is provisionally accredited.

All unaccredited or provisionally accredited school buildings must partner with an “independent school improvement expert” (probably from the Opportunity Trust, the organization which wrote the bill) to produce a “research-based improvement plan,” in collaboration with parents and teachers. School districts are “encouraged” to make unaccredited and provisionally accredited school buildings charter schools. Charter schools that are unaccredited or provisionally accredited for four consecutive years must be “reconstituted” with an “accredited charter organization” (probably the Charter School Commission) or be closed.

Students attending a school that has been provisionally accredited for five consecutive years may transfer to an accredited building within the district.

Provisionally and unaccredited school buildings or districts must mail letters to parents and guardians notifying them of the status of the district or school, what options are available to the students because of the classification, and the plans for improvement.

This bill labels 25% of all schools each year as either unaccredited or provisionally accredited, no matter how well students are learning in those buildings.
If the lowest 10% of schools are unaccredited, there will always be unaccredited schools. That makes the label meaningless. This is terrible policy intended to pit school buildings against each other instead of focusing on learning. There will always be a lowest 10%, so there will always be losers under this system.

This bill adds regulation to an already heavily regulated area.
The federal Every Student Succeeds Act already requires the state to identify low-performing schools and provide supports and expectations for improvement. Why do we need state law on this?

This bill will stigmatize neighborhoods, discourage neighborhood schools, and increase bussing.
The natural result of this legislation is the demise of neighborhood schools. It is no mystery that children that live in poverty score lower on statewide assessments. This bill will force school districts to revise attendance lines or resort to busing within the district to try and avoid the negative impact of these meaningless labels.

This is a charter school expansion bill.
The purpose of this legislation is to give a negative label to as many school buildings as possible and then turn them into charter schools. Charter school buildings that are unaccredited are not shut down but renamed under the Charter School Commission. The end result of this legislation is not better schools, just more charter schools.
This bill removes accreditation decisions away from DESE and the State Board of Education.

This bill removes a significant amount of authority and discretion from the State Board of Education and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). The accreditation of school districts is a complicated process, which is why it is delegated to a state agency that specializes in education. DESE has spent years crafting the newest round of accreditation standards known as the Missouri School Improvement Plan, Version 6, or MSIP 6. Each version has increased rigor and supported improvement in all schools. This plan has involved years of focus groups made up of educators, board members and parents. The MSIP 6 plan has been published for public comment twice. Currently it is scheduled to go into effect in 2022. Why would the legislature impose its own process at this time and negate all of this hard work?

This bill creates a system that gives an unfair advantage to charter schools over public schools. This bill seeks to compare charter school buildings with public school buildings, but this is an unfair comparison. Public school districts are required to enroll every single student. Charter schools can limit enrollment based on geography or require certain levels of parent engagement or refuse to allow transfers mid-year or after kindergarten. Charter schools are also not required to provide students transportation. These practices result in a student body where the parents are required to be more engaged, parents must have the time and resources to provide transportation, and whose students live in select neighborhoods. And charter schools have the luxury of turning away students when the school is “full” whereas public schools are required to enroll all students, regardless of the resources available. For the same reasons that private schools are ranked in higher divisions for athletic competitions (they can be more selective and recruit) than other schools of similar size, charter schools are not comparable to similarly sized/situated public schools.

“Research-based” is not the same as “evidence-based.” This bill requires districts to implement research-based improvement plans. But that is not the same thing as evidence-based improvement plans. Just because a solution has been researched does not mean that it has accomplished better results. MSBA is concerned that this bill is intended to allow out-of-state, pro-charter school “experts” to push educational models that do not result in better results for students.