This website is best viewed in a browser that supports web standards.

Skip to content or, if you would rather, Skip to navigation.


News Brief

Jan. 31, 2024 |  By: Annelise Hanshaw - Missouri Independent

Missouri lawmakers seek to reenvision school accountability and accreditation

a classroom

By Annelise Hanshaw - Missouri Independent

Missouri lawmakers are considering a handful of bills in both the House and Senate that would change the way the state measures school performance and accreditation.

The House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee debated two bills Wednesday seeking to scrap systems developed by the state’s education department to assess schools. A Senate committee held a hearing on similar bills two weeks ago. 

Legislation sponsored by state Rep. Mike Haffner, a Republican from Pleasant Hill, would score schools purely based on achievement and growth. His bill would replace a more complex system currently used by the state to measure school effectiveness.

“We need to be measuring what matters to student achievement, student growth, college and career readiness while providing parents more transparency as to how individual schools and school districts are succeeding in providing a quality education,” he told the committee on Wednesday.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education oversees the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP), which is in its sixth iteration. MSIP 6 measures school and district performance through factors such as standardized-test scores, perceived growth and attendance.

Districts’ MSIP 6 scores determine their accreditation, and highly-rated districts set the tone for state funding of public schools through the foundation formula.

Haffner told the committee he disagreed with some of the MSIP 6 metrics.

“We’ve got over 30% that’s based upon improvement planning, self study, climate and culture survey, required documentation,” he said. “That is not measuring academic achievement.”

But after meeting with the University of Missouri-Columbia last week, Haffner said he has started to appreciate the current growth model used by the department. Faculty at the university crafted the growth model, though some superintendents worry that the calculation is not transparent.

When Haffner filed the bill, he told The Independent through an aide that he was calculating growth differently.

State Rep. Kathy Steinhoff, a Columbia Democrat, said the language in the bill seems to prescribe a calculation of growth based on year-over-year change.

“When I look at this description, I’m just taking last year’s score and this year’s score and [finding] what’s the difference,” she said. “But I’m assuming that methodology you got from the university is much more detailed.”

Haffner said he was willing to talk about that element.

“We just want clear and accessible information to provide the information on student achievement and growth. What that looks like, we are willing to discuss,” he said.

Fewer districts should have the state’s full accreditation, Haffner said, since around a quarter of the state’s eighth-grade students are proficient in math and reading.

“Everybody sitting here on this committee is aware that our academic outcomes are now below national averages and are headed in the wrong direction,” he said, referring to the National Assessment of Education Progress. Missouri’s scores are “not significantly different from the average score” nationwide in each subject.

Otto Fajen, a lobbyist for the Missouri branch of the National Education Association, said educators are looking for more changes.

“We would be missing the opportunity to transform something that fundamentally just grades schools into something that fulfills the federal purpose, which has been narrowed and really seeks to make sure that we are actually supporting schools,” he said. “We have tools that we can pick up, but right now this bill wouldn’t be able to do that.”

He said legislation sponsored by Rep. Paula Brown, a Democrat from Hazelwood, would have that potential.

Brown’s bill, also discussed in committee Wednesday, would allow school districts to determine metrics of accountability that would then be approved by the state department.

Her legislation seeks to overhaul the Missouri Assessment Program, often called the MAP test, for an exam “developed by teachers in consultation with administrators, students, parents and community,” she said Wednesday.

“At the end of the day, the MAP just isn’t valid for all the things assessments should mean and give us,” Brown said.

An assessment is required to meet federal standards.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education would choose at least two national accreditation agencies to replace the MSIP 6 system.

No one testified in opposition to Brown’s bill.

The Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee approved a bill sponsored by Republican state Sen. Jill Carter of Granby that is similar to Brown’s last week. Carter filed similar legislation last year, which cleared committee but never came up for a vote by the full Senate. 

The Senate committee also debated a bill by Republican state Sen. Curtis Trent identical to Haffner’s two weeks ago. Trent is the newly appointed chair of the education committee, but has not yet taken up his bill for a vote.