The Missouri State Board of Education approved new resource and process standards to help teachers and districts evaluate student performance and success. The new standards were established to help districts reach short- and long-term goals, including college and career readiness.
This updated set of standards is part of the Missouri School Improvement Program aiming to emphasize secondary school course offerings and other curriculum-based changes.
One of the main objectives of the performance standards is to put Missouri among the top 10 states for public education by 2020, said Sarah Potter, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Communications Coordinator.
To find the best possible solution for the goal, she said DESE works with the Missouri School Boards Association and the Missouri Association of School Administrators. Potter said other advisory groups, including teachers and superintendents across the state, are consulted to create standards and district scoring guides.
“We don’t create things in a vacuum,” Potter said. “We get good feedback and talk to schools where [changes] have been implemented. It is definitely a co-created thing and this is a step in the right direction.”
Potter said support staff contributes to college and career readiness for students as early as seventh grade. Guidance counselors meet with students to create a plan for them based on career interest. She said students can plan to take courses that will be applicable to the career they want. Available courses sometimes include specialized courses like agriculture in rural areas. These courses are mandated by the district instead of the state, because the districts create their own curriculum, Potter said.
Julie Reuschel, School Improvement Coordinator for Kirksville School District, said the district has a Career Technical Center designed for students who wish to take certain career-oriented courses such as nursing, graphic design, automotive and construction trades. Students who are part of the program spend time each day at the center and the high school, Reuschel said.
She said schools are evaluated by a point system and there are different ways districts might earn points for categories.
One technique she said DESE emphasizes is testing, especially college entrance exams such as the ACT or SAT. Students who wish to enter the military can take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, which she said also is evaluated to determine student success and performance.
“[DESE] wants to make sure that you’re covering as many students as possible in all areas,” Reuschel said. “We find what test would be best suited for each student and find out how to incorporate everybody into that.”
Paul Yoder, Truman State Education Department Chair, said DESE considers a variety of things when updating district process standards, including budget, emphasis of student success and future plans of Missouri students. The standard is statewide and Yoder said sometimes DESE guidelines and considerations with special courses do not work best in certain areas.
“Unfortunately, what drives those decisions is quite often your big, urban and suburban St. Louis and Kansas City school districts,” Yoder said. “I think a lot of people at DESE and a lot of people in education in general, from the policy maker’s perspective, don’t understand rural education … it doesn’t quite ring true with many people establishing these standards. I think in many ways, rural schools are left out cold.”
The updated resource and process standards and the new teacher performance standards will create new standards for accountability, Yoder said.
As an institution with a large emphasis on education and teacher preparation, Yoder said Truman likely will adapt well to changes since the school has been aware of them for a while. He said this should give teachers the necessary resources to be successful.
Yoder said Kirksville School District has adapted to changes and updated standards efficiently. However, he said some districts in larger cities like St. Louis dismiss potential updates as “government talks” and are more resistant to changes.
DESE is responsible for implementing some changes, but Yoder said the changes are also discussed at the federal level. He said President Barack Obama has an agenda for education.
“Because Governor Jay Nixon was reelected, because President Obama was reelected, all of these changes are going to go through,” Yoder said.
Yoder said the different sets of accountability standards impact teachers and students differently and even though they are not directly related, he said the standards should converge to benefit teachers.