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WHAT OTHERS SAY: Missouri needs a better way to track educational progress

Wednesday, August 10, 2011 | 2:09 p.m. CDT; updated 4:50 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Missouri has always been a poster child for a glaring deficiency in the federal education law known as the No Child Left Behind Act.

To its credit, Missouri uses rigorous tests to measure how well and how much students are learning. But that means fewer students hit the federally required performance targets than their peers in states with less demanding standards.

The problem came sharply into focus when the results of last year’s Missouri Assessment Program, or MAP, tests were recently made public. Most schools statewide showed progress in math, communication arts or both.

But three out of four schools fell short of the benchmarks required to meet the federal definition of “adequate yearly progress.”

Missouri has its share of troubled schools and districts, but the federal definitions do the state a disservice. Indeed, the No Child Left Behind measurements are becoming irrelevant to families and the public.

Unfortunately, Congress is dragging its feet on an overhaul of the sweeping education law. It seems that House Republicans and Democratic senators disagree on the direction of the reform. (Shocking, we know.)

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has told states they may be able to avoid sanctions built into the law by proposing meaningful accountability measures. Missouri should take advantage of that offer.

A move under way in most states to create a common set of education standards and assessment measures should also help clear up some of the confusion.

Meanwhile, families and members of the public who are seeking reliable information about a school’s performance should check out the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s new user-friendly website at mcds.dese.mo.gov.


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