Missouri educators can breathe a sigh of relief as the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) begins a revision process for Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) 5.
At the end of April, the Missouri School Board Association temporarily withdrew from the rulemaking process for the fifth cycle of MSIP, which is the state's system for accrediting public schools.
"The proposed changes to MSIP 5 are much different than what we ever expected," said Richard Asbill, Cassville superintendent. "It changed the accountability piece. It also changed how school districts control their local operations. In my opinion, it took away a lot of the grass roots control.
"It would have forced southwest Missouri schools to fit a mold that does not fit our demographics or even our job market," added Asbill.
MSIP 5 would have required students to chose a career path by the end of their eighth grade year. Many career paths would have clashed with the educational paths offered by the new MSIP program, said Asbill.
"School requirements have changed a lot since I was in school," said Asbill. "Not all of those changes have been bad. Many of those changes have been needed as the job market has changed, but we must be receptive to the kids who are not in the Kansas City or St. Louis areas. Our kids don't have the same needs as those kids."
The Missouri State Teachers Association, the Missouri Association of School Administrators and the Missouri School Board Association plan to hold roundtable meetings to discuss changes that need to be made to MSIP 5.
"Until now, this hasn't been a collaborative process," said Asbill. "There was not a lot of stakeholder say in the rulemaking process, and there has been a lot of uninformed people and a lot of miscommunication. They also did not have good ownership of the program at the school board level.
"DESE asked to withdraw the proposed plan, and the state school board approved the request to put it on hold," said Asbill.
Plans are being made to establish three or four advisory groups responsible for collecting input on MSIP 5, said Asbill. Later, the plan will be publicized for review.
"I don't think you can test your way into improvement," said Asbill. "I am not a big fan of testing your way into achievement. Additional tests will give us the data, but they will not make us do better. I think we need to work ourselves into success, not test ourselves into it."
The revised MSIP 5 will likely be approved around six months after the revision process began. Districts will be required to implement the new program two years after it is approved.
"We have very good teachers who know how to work hard and give their best to their students," said Asbill. "I think if we had more support for our hard working teachers than unachievable goals, we would be able to improve more quickly.
"These plans are like asking a legislator to make 10 free throw shots, and when he hits six of them saying, 'That was really good, but next time you have to hit all 10 or you fail,'" said Asbill. "It's like digging up a potato to see if it is ready and then trying to put it back so that it can continue growing."