Much has been written and presented throughout the community about the devastation that the current student-transfer law is having on districts in the St. Louis area. The Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA) has recently refined its New Path To Excellence Plan, giving the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) a real solution to struggling schools in our state. The following is a press release recently shared by MASA that encourages DESE to enter into true partnership with struggling schools to help them improve in lieu of the forced consolidation that will occur through the current “nuclear” option.
Contracts Not Consolidation
The Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA) is calling on the Missouri State Board of Education to end additional school transfers from unaccredited school districts and stop the forced consolidation of school districts. The association is asking the State Board of Education to negotiate improvement contracts with low performing school districts and to deploy a variety of intervention strategies.
According to documents submitted to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) by the Missouri School Boards' Association, the State Board of Education can use the current classifications to establish a contract with low-performing schools that specifically outlines performance expectations, a timeline for improvement, professional development activities, intervention strategies, etc.
“The State Board of Education has the ability to immediately stop the school transfer insanity by entering into a contract with underperforming schools in exchange for an interim or provisional accreditation,” said Roger Kurtz, executive director of MASA. “As for the long-term solution, MASA in collaboration with the Cooperating School Districts of St. Louis, the Cooperating School Districts of Greater Kansas City and the Southwest Center have recommended a number of interventions to be implemented in a new accreditation level in its 'New Path to Excellence’ proposal. We are also aware of a new ‘Missouri School Improvement Plan' that is being submitted to DESE that provides research-based interventions that could be the foundation for a school improvement contract.”
Any contract developed between DESE and the school districts must include immediate and intensive interventions that hold districts accountable to meet the goals laid out in the contract. The school improvement contract is broadly applicable to all school districts regardless of size or location and may be tailored to the resources available in the community and the needs of the district.
Because of the current school transfer law, the Normandy School District will soon be bankrupt. The State Board will then assign the students to another school district. This forced consolidation will place additional financial and performance burdens on the receiving school district and its taxpayers. This scenario occurred in 2010 when the Wellston School District was consolidated with the Normandy School District. It will likely be repeated in other high-poverty and rural areas of the state unless action is taken.
“By taking these steps, we believe the state board will save Missouri taxpayers millions of dollars, provide a quality education for all students, preserve community schools and strengthen local communities,” Mr. Kurtz said.
“The plan submitted by the school administrators allows students currently participating in the school transfer program to continue to do so as long as they maintain residency requirements,” Mr. Kurtz added.
Referring to the plan that DESE, the Kaufman Foundation and the Hall family purchased from Indiana-based Cities For Education Entrepreneurship Trust (CEE Trust), Mr. Kurtz said, “Our plan is not a concept for which thousands of dollars must be spent on out-of-state consultants. The answer has been in front of DESE the entire time, but that answer requires more effort and accountability of our state department and its leaders. The CEE Trust plan is nothing more than an effort by the foundations to dismantle the Kansas City School District and DESE’s effort to wash its hands of the responsibility to the students residing in these affected communities.”
Dr. David McGehee