The Children's Education Council of Missouri is the state's leading advocate for education reform.
Waiting for Superman Director defines 'charter school.'
CECM State Director Kate Casas testified in support of the bill, followed by parent Tiffany Lewis, and parent and business owner Michele Coen-Racanelli. You can read their testimony below. Missouri StudentsFirst, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, and the Missouri Education Reform Commission also voiced their support. Opposition testimony, focused largely on concerns about labels and the emphasis on student growth, came from the Missouri State Teachers Association, American Federation of Teachers, Missouri National Education Association, Missouri Association of School Administrators, Cooperating School Districts, Missouri School Board Association, and St. Louis Public Schools. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education offered testimony for informational purposes only.
Several changes will likely be made to the bill next week during an Executive Session. The fiscal note on the bill is less than $15,000 per year.
Kate Casas’ testimony:
Good morning. My name is Kate Casas and I am the State Director of the Children’s Education Council of Missouri. I’m here today to testify in support of HB388.
We support this legislation for one very important reason: Parents, community members, and business and philanthropic leaders need accessible, understandable, transparent information about school performance. We believe that with the adoption of the MSIP5 performance standards this year, which are both a reliable barometer of how a school is performing and can be easily to being translated into a simple A-F report, now is the perfect time to implement a school building information act.
The data from MSIP5 that will be included in the proposed school information report will provide objective and empirical evidence of student learning and academic gains. As most of you know, DESE, school administrators, community members, teachers, and other experts spent years developing the MSIP5 performance measures that will ultimately be used to determine a school’s rating. We feel that given the expertise, time and resources it took to create of these standards, it would be a disservice to all taxpayers and specifically to parents if this valuable data isn’t translated into useful information.
It is important to point out that both status and growth will be factors in awarding points in each area included in the final grade calculation (student achievement, subgroup achievement, attendance, graduation rate, and college and career readiness). “Status” refers to grade level performance, or performance compared to a standard. “Growth” refers to the academic growth of a student over time, regardless of whether the student is performing on grade level or a standard is being met. Rewarding both status and growth maintains high standards and expectations for achievement, while giving credit to schools for improving the learning of struggling students even if they are not yet on grade level or meeting a standard.
Lastly, there is evidence that implementing an A-F rating system has the potential to engage parents and influence better outcomes. Several states have begun implementing simple A-F school report cards that make it easy for parents, community members and elected officials to see how schools are performing.
We feel that if schools are really interested in authentic parent and community involvement, then we are going to have to start telling parents and community members exactly how schools are performing.
Thank you for your considering this very important piece of legislation.
Tiffany Lewis’ testimony:
My name is Tiffany Lewis and I am here today to testify in support of House Bill 388. I support HB388 because I know first hand how difficult it currently is to get accurate information about the performance of my child’s school.
I live in the City of Saint Louis and have 5 children who are all currently in school. The journey to get each of them placed in a school that meets our needs, maintains high expectations, and that will prepare them for college and career has been a long, stressful, and often times frightening one.
Currently my five children are in four different schools. Two are in public schools and three are in private schools. Choosing these schools has been difficult because of a lack of quality, understandable information.
For example, I enrolled my daughters in one of Saint Louis’ Imagine Academies in 2007. I’m sure most of you have heard of Imagine, which was a large charter school network that was closed last year due to poor performance. I know at the time of its closing, lots of people were wondering how so many children were enrolled in a school that was so clearly not doing a great job educating children.
Well, I’m here to tell you that at the time, it wasn’t so clear. When I decided to enroll them there, there was no third party providing me with easily understood information about the school’s lack of academic rigor and there was no one giving parents information that would reveal the school’s low expectations for kids. The parents were seeing their children bring home As and Bs and when they toured the schools, they saw bright shiny new buildings that made many of the neighborhood schools look decrepit. After just a short time there, I realized enrolling my children in Imagine was a mistake and moved them, but I promise you that I would have never enrolled them in the first place if there had been an easy to understand document, like the report cards proposed in HB388, to show me the school’s failure.
I could go on and on about my experience trying to get accurate information about the options available to my kids, but the bottom line is this, I am a strong believer in parent choice and parent responsibility, and I’m sure most of you are too. However, parent choice and parent responsibility can only work if you have informed parents. HB388 isn’t a silver bullet that will fix all schools, but it will certainly raise the level of awareness. The first step in fixing something that is broken is acknowledging it is broken.
Michele Coen-Racanelli’s testimony:
My name is Michele Coen-Racanelli and I am here to testify in support of House Bill 388.
I live in the city of St. Louis and I have recently started looking for a home to buy. As you can imagine with a four-year-old daughter, I want a house in a neighborhood with a great school. As I began looking for homes, it struck me as odd that it was easier for me to find out what rating the nearest restaurant had than it was for me to get accurate information about the performance of the neighborhood school.
I know, as owner of multiple food service companies that most people would never knowingly eat in a restaurant that had received anything less than an A rating from the local health department. I am also willing to bet that no one would see the logic in rating a city’s restaurants collectively rather than on their individual merit. And lastly, I doubt many people would approve of a rating system that was not universally understood by all potential patrons.
Even though most Missourians demand transparent, accessible and understandable rating systems for restaurants, parents like me are forced to choose where to buy a house and send our kids to school with very limited information.
I do not think it is too much to ask that we give parents and other taxpayers the same level of transparency about our school’s performance as we do our restaurants and food services.
I urge you to consider voting yes on HB388. Thank you.
Waiting for Superman Director defines 'charter school.'