Lawmaker proposes local control plan to opt Missouri districts out of state standards
State Sen. Jill Carter, R-Granby, pitches her bill to the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee on Tuesday (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent).
A Republican legislator wants to find a way for some Missouri school districts to opt out the state’s accreditation program.
State Sen. Jill Carter, R-Granby, pitched her bill to the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee on Tuesday as a way for districts to “get out from the heavy hand of the department of education.”
Her bill seeks to create “local control school districts” that would not be required to participate in the Missouri school improvement program, annual performance reviews by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education or other DESE standards.
To qualify as a local control school district, a district must receive at least 75% of its per-pupil funding locally.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle voiced support for the premise of her bill, though some questioned whether it could be improved and polished.
“Somehow our colleges and universities have to know, does this student have a basic understanding of science? Do they actually know anything about math?” said Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City.
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Carter, who was elected to the senate last year, said there are national groups that could provide accreditation. Her bill gives the option for local control school districts to replace the Missouri Assessment Program with “any nationally recognized assessment test program.”
“I appreciate the intent of it,” Razer said, “but I think we need to work on the details.”
Otto Fajen, Missouri’s National Education Association legislative director, said testing mandates – pushed by the federal No Child Left Behind Act and Missouri’s Outstanding Schools Act – have affected teachers’ outlook.
“[Teachers] feel restricted, and [teaching] is really not what they thought it was going to be,” he said. “So, they’re not staying in the profession.”
He said the Missouri Assessment Program does not allow teachers to use their own creativity.
“We always argue that if you’re going to use assessment, it should be in line with what children are learning and teachers are teaching,” Fajen said.
Michael Lodewegen, director of legislative advocacy for the Missouri Council of School Administrators, said a universal test is necessary to compare schools.
“If we are going to move into the choice world, we need an apples-to-apples comparison to see how schools are doing compared to each other,” he said.
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John Beckett, who served two terms on the Camdenton School Board, said the school board discussed the state’s orders “behind closed doors,” comparing what they wanted to teach and what they felt the state’s department was looking for.
“This bill looks like it would open the floodgates for our students and give them opportunities we have never seen,” he said.
No one testified in opposition of the bill, and the committee took no action on Tuesday.
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