KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A group of school superintendents has developed an alternative to a Missouri law that allows students to transfer from unaccredited to accredited districts.
The Kansas City Star reports that under the plan, successful districts would play a larger role, actually taking over school systems that suffer from prolonged failure. But students wouldn’t be bused to neighboring districts, as began happening this year in two unaccredited St. Louis county districts. Those two districts—Riverview Gardens and Normandy—have seen some 20 percent of their students transfer, creating financial problems. The Kansas City school district also is unaccredited, but a pending lawsuit is stopping transfers for now.
The school-improvement plan, which was drafted by 20 leaders from around the state, would allow students to transfer to better schools within districts that score at a provisional level on state performance reports. Those reports evaluate districts based on things such as test scores and attendance rates.
Districts that perform below the provisional level would be labeled “academically stressed,” and a state-appointed board could take over low-achieving schools within those districts. The state could leave the local board in control of higher-achieving schools in those districts, but it would have the authority to take over all the schools. If a district remained academically stressed after five years, the district would be dissolved and its schools distributed to accredited districts.
The superintendents are proposing that students who have already transferred under the law be allowed to continue in their new schools, as long as they continue to reside in the unaccredited district. But the superintendents want to stop any new transfers.
Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education spokeswoman Sarah Potter says state Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro hasn’t yet had a chance to review the proposal. Nicastro’s office is proposing ways to adjust the law, such as setting lower tuition rates on the unaccredited districts and letting receiving districts establish class-size limits, to spare the failing districts from the financial burden of the current law.