James V. Shuls, Ph.D.
More charter schools, a change in Saint Louis Public Schools' accreditation status . . . Get the low-down from yesterday's Missouri State Board of Education meeting with my recap of the good, the bad, and the ugly from the proceedings.

The Good:

The board approved two new charter schools: Eagle College Prep and Lafayette Preparatory Academy. Curt Fuchs, coordinator of educational support services for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), remarked that the applications were exceptionally strong. After having talked briefly with school leaders from both schools, I am very optimistic that these schools will be highly successful.

The Bad:

The board granted provisional accreditation status to the Saint Louis Public School District. Not that this was a bad decision, in fact, it probably was the right decision. The district met the minimum criteria laid out under DESE’s old accreditation system: the Missouri School Improvement Plan 4 (MSIP). The problem with this is threefold: (1) The bar for provisional accreditation is too low, (2) accreditation status is essentially meaningless, and (3) parents need information at the school level, not the district level.

The state is improving the accreditation system to MSIP 5, but this does not negate the fact that school accountability should come from parents armed with information, not from the state board. An “A” to “F” school grading system would help accomplish this.

The Ugly:

The most disturbing thing from the state board meeting was not anything that was voted upon; rather, it was the overall attitude that the board must micromanage schools, even charter schools. For more than a decade, Missouri has tried accountability systems run at the state level, with little success. It is time to move past the notion that we can prescribe solutions for public education. We need an atmosphere where educational entrepreneurs want to come and innovators can thrive. That can become a reality if we empower schools to make decisions and provide families with options.

About the Author

James Shuls
James Shuls

James V. Shuls is an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and Distinguished Fellow in Education Policy at the Show-Me Institute.