MO educators look at major changes to troubled districts - KCTV5

MO education officials look at major changes to troubled districts

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DESE meeting (Edwin Watson/KCTV5) DESE meeting (Edwin Watson/KCTV5)

The Missouri Board of Education is considering drastic measures to rejuvenate troubled school districts, including dissolving entire districts.

The state now has three unaccredited districts. The districts are the Kansas City School District and two in the St. Louis area.

State education officials endorsed on Tuesday intervention models that could lead to significant changes including attaching chunks of struggling districts to higher performing surrounding districts.

The state could replace a locally elected school board with a special administrative board or an administrator who reports to the state.

Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro presented her intervention plans on Tuesday, which the state board will now consider.

"All kinds of people are really engaged in trying to find out how do we make sure all kids have a quality education in Missouri," she said. "We believe strongly that there needs to be early intervention. The plan would work perfectly if we never have another unaccredited school district."

Kansas City was unaccredited more than a decade ago and regain provisional accreditation. The district has never had full accreditation. The St. Louis School District saw a state takeover and is now provisionally accredited.

Nicastro said the new plan's goal is to step in sooner with provisionally accredited districts as well as stepping up efforts in unaccredited districts. State officials said the focus will be on performance.

State education officials have held meetings throughout the state in recent weeks to get public input. The focus was on governance and policy issues.

"Timing is critical," Nicastro said in a news release. "We have a collective responsibility to ensure that every child, in every community, all over Missouri has access to a quality education. And doing so without disruption to the children we're trying to help will be essential."

The plan includes five levels with various options for the state to choose from.

"The department recognized the need for multiple possible solutions when looking at diverse communities with varied challenges in different parts of the state," state officials said.

The levels of support and intervention would depend on how much a district is struggling.

Unaccredited districts would see its contracts reviewed. In addition, the districts would receive a financial monitor as students began to transfer to other districts as allowed under state law. Some fear the transfers will bankrupt unaccredited districts.

"The current transfer program is unsustainable in its current structure," Nicastro said. "Any district that is subject to transfers is ultimately going to have financial difficulty."

One of the proposals is quite drastic.

"A lapsed district could be attached to one or more districts," according to the state. "Students could be assigned to other districts; and/or the district could come under state oversight for restructuring. The state board would apply changes based on the needs of each district and community."

The state plans to gather feedback on its plans at two meetings. The first one will be Monday at Metropolitan Community College and on Tuesday at the University of Missouri at St. Louis. Times were not given for the meeting.

Students will take state tests later this year. Those results will determine the district's future.

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