Accreditation of Missouri pubic schools won’t include test scores until 2023-24

(The Center Square) – The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) annually reviews several benchmarks in evaluating Missouri’s public schools, but test scores won’t enter the mix until the 2023-24 school year.

“Decisions about district accreditation are made every year, with or without assessment data,” said Mallory McGowin, Chief Communications Officer with DESE, who joined two colleagues during an interview with The Center Square. “We haven’t had assessment data as part of that decision-making process for a couple of reasons.”

One reason is DESE introducing a new student testing program. The Missouri School Improvement Program 6 (MSIP6) was approved by the state’s Board of Education in February 2020. The closing of schools due to the pandemic canceled student testing in 2020.

Scores from student tests taken in 2021 showed significant declines in achievement. Results from tests taken in April will be released later this year.

During a Senate interim committee on education hearing earlier this month, DESE Commissioner Margie Vandeven said MSIP6, the state’s accountability system for reviewing and accrediting school districts, won’t be factored in until the 2023-34 school year – the third year of MSIP6.

“Whenever we implement a new assessment or accountability system in Missouri, the statute requires the information cannot be used to lower a district classification until at least the second year of implementation,” said Lisa Sireno, Assistant Commissioner of Quality Schools. “And we have not made classification determinations based on fewer than three years of assessment data in the past.”

Five of the 518 school districts in the state are currently provisionally accredited and no district is unaccredited.

“Every year, including last year, we published (test) information from our public schools and we continue to pay attention to that academic performance data,” said Jocelyn Strand, the Improvement and Accountability Administrator for Missouri’s School Improvement Program. “Our area supervisors know what’s happening in their regions and they can continue to work with districts. And at the state level, we are working to ensure districts have the resources they need and a strategy in place.”

In addition to student performance on statewide assessments, accreditation reviews include an examination of the financial status of the school district and the certifications of superintendents and other administrators.

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