Will HB 42 Hurt Alternative High Schools?
The Columbia Tribune reported that Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Peter Stiepleman and other superintendents across the state are telling Gov. Nixon to veto House Bill 42. If signed into law, the bill would allow students to transfer from an unaccredited school into another district or charter school at the expense of the sending district.
HB 42 also would create a new accreditation process, in which individual schools, not districts, are accredited, as is currently the procedure. This would allow students attending unaccredited schools to first transfer into an accredited school within their home district if there is space available. In short, school-level accreditation is going to affect more than just districts like Normandy and Riverview Gardens.
Stiepleman bases his concerns on the possible fate of a school in his district. Douglass High School is an alternative high school. Most alternative “schools” in Missouri are really programs carried out within a larger school, but Douglass is a stand-alone school. Under HB 42, the school would be accredited individually.
Stiepleman is worried that Douglass will not get a fair shake. As he put it, “Because of the population of fragile students at Douglass, the lack of Advanced Placement courses and other issues, it could become provisionally accredited. That designation is one step removed from being unaccredited, which could trigger student transfers.”
I recently reported on DeLaSalle Education Center, an alternative charter high school in Kansas City with similar fears. Like Douglass, DeLaSalle serves only at-risk students. As my video shows, students like senior K’ Von Williams are thriving at DeLaSalle.
Despite DeLaSalle’s low state standardized test scores, the charter school is delivering a quality service to both the community and students. If regulations are only based on test scores, they can miss the good things the school is doing.
Schools in Missouri should be held accountable for the quality of education that they provide for their students. But the mechanism by which those schools are held accountable has to be sensitive to different educational models (in the charter or traditional public sectors) and different populations of students across the state.
If HB 42 become law, DESE and the legislature will need to reevaluate the metrics Missouri uses to determine if a school is accredited or not. If they’re not careful, they could risk harming schools that are doing right by kids.