Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri Approves 'Skinny Plan' to Improve Worst-Performing Public Schools

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri Approves 'Skinny Plan' to Improve Worst-Performing Public Schools

Article excerpt

JEFFERSON CITY * Missouri will aim to have at least 82 percent of its public school students proficient in English and at least 74 percent of students proficient in math by 2026, as part of its federally mandated plan to improve the worst-performing public schools.

The Missouri Board of Education unanimously approved a final draft of the plan Tuesday. The plan is awaiting a signature of support by Gov. Eric Greitens, who can't veto the plan. The state has until Sept. 18 to submit the plan to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

All states are in the midst of submitting plans on how they will identify, then intervene in their worst-performing public schools. These plans are being mandated for the first time by the federal 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act, also known as ESSA.

ESSA replaces the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. While that effort was recognized for setting higher expectations for schools and bringing attention to the performance of disadvantaged students, it was criticized for imposing an impossible requirement that all students become proficient by 2014.

Missouri's new plan says the state will aim, over 10 years, to reduce by half the percentage of students who are not graduating and the percentage of students not testing proficient in English and math. That means Missouri's starting mark in 2017 for reaching that proficiency goal is a 44 percent proficiency rate in math and a 65 percent proficiency rate in English.

The plan also sets a similar goal of reducing the percentage of failing students in groups of historically underperforming groups including low-income students, African-American students, English language learners and those in special education.

Because these subgroups already have lower than average proficiency rates, that means the state's goals for their progress will be lower. For example, Missouri is aiming for 63 percent of black students to be proficient in math and 70 percent of them to be proficient in English by 2026.

That also means disadvantaged groups will have to make more progress in the same amount of time than their peers.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education says these expected proficiency percentages could shift once Missouri changes its standardized tests next year.

Missouri will identify its lowest-performing schools based on these factors, in order of importance:

* Academic proficiency.

* Academic growth (for elementary and middle schools) or graduation rate (for high schools).

* English language learning (for non-native English speakers).

* Attendance.

A school will be targeted for intervention if one of the following applies:

* The school places in the bottom 5 percent of schools.

* A high school fails to graduate one-third or more of its students.

* A school receiving extra support fails to increase proficiency rates by 2 percent for two of three years and perform as well as other schools targeted for improvement.

The state education department estimates that, based on these criteria, 62 schools will fall in the bottom 5 percent and be targeted for intervention. …

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