The Washington School District is getting a look at how it might fare under a new accreditation system, and officials like what they see.
The new rating system for Missouri’s school districts will intensify pressure on low-performing school districts to improve, while exposing even the best schools to new scrutiny from parents and the public.
Once the plan is in place, districts with 70 percent and higher will be accredited. Those scoring under 50 percent will be unaccredited, and those falling in between will have provisional accreditation.
Score of 95
Based on its last three years of data, Washington scored a 95 percent.
“That’s great news,” said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Judy Straatmann, “but right now that score is only for informational purposes because the plan won’t be fully implemented until 2015.”
The state education department plugged three years of data into a new system to give districts an idea of how they might fare, she said. The state will begin collecting performance data from the current school year and next two to determine scores under the new system.
“But we are setting goals based on the new standards and we feel good that we are on the right track with the score we received,” said Straatmann, who is currently working to update the district’s Comprehensive School Improvement Plan, or CSIP.
Gone will be a 14-point scale that allowed several suburban school districts in the St. Louis region to earn perfect scores on the state standards. In its place is a more rigorous scale that would lead to far fewer perfect scores.
For struggling schools, the changes could mean more districts statewide won’t meet minimum standards for state accreditation. For high-performing districts, the new system creates greater distinctions.
Straatmann said the new system will provide districts more information on where they need to improve and a clearer picture of how schools are performing.
Under the previous system, more than 80 percent of districts met at least 13 out of 14 standards for K-12 districts. But only 55 percent of Missouri’s students were considered proficient on state tests for reading and math last year.
The state’s education department has updated its measures for school districts every five years or so since first beginning the system decades ago. In 2011, the Missouri Board of Education adopted the standards, which look at academic achievement, whether students leave ready for college or careers, attendance and graduation rates.
State administrators based the standards on what it would take for Missouri to rank among the top 10 states for student achievement by 2020.
Straatmann said the new standards will calculate data differently. For example, a district’s attendance rate will no longer be scored based on overall attendance, or the percentage of students in school daily. Now, the state will look at what percentage of students are in school 90 percent of the time to focus on the kids who are absent the most.
“It’s truly holding every student accountable and will help districts focus on individual students and what can be done to get them to school,” she said.
The use of Advanced Placement course data also has changed, Straatmann said. Under the new system, districts earn points for how many students pass the tests for the college-level courses, rather than districts earning points just for offering them.
“Of course there are always pros and cons with any change, but I do like the rigor the new standards provide,” she said.
“The new system also will measure a district’s progress so the level of expectations will continue to rise which is good because we never want to be satisfied with where we are, we always want to strive for every student to do better,” she added.
Scores for other school districts in Franklin County based on the last three years of data are as follows:
Franklin County R-II (New Haven) — 98.8.
Meramec Valley — 86.8.
New Haven — 89.3.
St. Clair — 92.1.
Sullivan — 86.8.
Washington — 95.
Union — 77.1.