Members of Missouri’s State Board of Education held their monthly meeting in Jefferson City today.
In addition to routine business on the agenda, such as hearing a financial report and considering teacher licensure requests, the board dealt with two action items. Both had to do with accountability.
First, State Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro asked the board to approve a rule requiring charter schools to demonstrate academic and financial accountability. When state law first authorized charter schools — which are limited to Kansas City and St. Louis — few provisions were made for what could be done if there were problems. However, state law does hold sponsors accountable, so the state department of education would like the board to approve publication of a rule requiring charter school sponsors to ensure students are learning and accounting books are in order.
In addition, Nicstro asked the board to provide approval for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to continue work on a request for a waiver of requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The act requires schools to demonstrate accountability for student learning by publishing annual district report cards and providing consequences for schools not closing achievement gaps among various groups such as disadvantaged and minority students.
Problems with charter schools have led state authorities to take a closer look at them. In Kansas City, for example, Renaissance Academy for Math and Science and the Urban Community Leadership Academy both shut down last November after struggling under allegations that students were not learning. During this evening’s State of the State address, Gov. Jay Nixon called on the legislature to pass a charter school accountability bill, so it is probably not a coincidence that the State Board of Education considered the same topic during today’s meeting.
Accountability for public schools rather than charter schools was the subject of the board’s consideration of the state’s NCLB flexibility request. Most educators agree with the intent of NCLB, which is to narrow achievement gaps among advantaged and disadvantaged public school students. However, the goal of 100 percent proficiency on state standardized tests by 2014 appears to be unrealistic. Because Congress is overdue on reauthorizing the act, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said states may apply for waivers that would provide districts with flexibility in accounting for student progress. Public comments closed earlier this month regarding the first draft of Missouri’s waiver request, and the education department had promised to bring a second draft incorporating suggested changes to the state board this month. The application deadline Missouri is targeting is February 21.
Today’s meeting, which was open to the public, took place in the State Board of Education Room at the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education building.
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