Missouri education board approves ‘innovation waivers’ for districts, including Lewis County C-1, to opt out of state tests

The Missouri State Board of Education approves the Success Ready Students Network's request for an innovation waiver Tuesday (Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent).

The Missouri State Board of Education approved the Success Ready Students Network's request for an innovation waiver Tuesday. | Annelise Hanshaw/Missouri Independent

The Missouri State Board of Education unanimously approved an exemption for 19 districts and one charter school to measure student achievement using alternative assessments instead of the state’s prescribed methods.

Students in these districts will begin to see changes this fall as districts in the Success Ready Students Network implement their plan.

“Progress monitoring during the school year is already taking place within these school districts, though it may not be monitored by the state at this time,” Jeremy Tucker, superintendent of the Liberty 53 School District and Success Ready Students Network facilitator, told the board Tuesday. “We can really add more touch points from the start of the year all the way to the end of the year.”

The state board’s approval, called an innovation waiver, will allow the districts to break from components of the state’s evaluation system for three years.

“(Missouri Assessment Program results) don’t inform what we do on a regular basis,” Branson Public Schools Superintendent Brad Swofford told the board, mentioning the delay in receiving the test’s results.

Teachers prefer to look at assessments that show students progress over the school year, allowing them to adapt to the data and instill confidence in learning students, he said. Branson currently gives students NWEA assessments, tests that adapt questions to students’ achievement level and outputs a number to describe their level of knowledge.

Lee’s Summit R-VII School District, another of the districts in the network, will use this assessment to track students’ progress over the school year, Associate Superintendent of Academic Services Christy Barger told The Independent.

State Board of Education member Mary Schrag said she has heard that in states that already have similar programs, students feel “much more vested” in their educational progress.

Students in participating districts will likely complete the MAP test to comply with federal requirements, unless districts receive a federal waiver, but their schools will not be scored at the state level based on those results. 

Consequently, the accreditation status of the 20 districts will be paused throughout the three-year pilot program.

Parents should still expect accountability because the districts are responsible for reporting students’ literacy and numeracy scores.

Barger said the innovation waiver allows schools to test the progress of all students, including high achievers, instead of administering an annual exam.

“We can hold districts accountable and measure district quality in a way that supports student learning,” she said.

The ability to apply for innovation waivers is new, as lawmakers passed the legislation in 2022. Kansas City Democratic Sen. Lauren Arthur, who pushed for the legislation, posted on Twitter she was glad to see the new law put to use.

“These districts have proposed meaningful changes to the current system in order to center personalized student learning, support teachers, and bring our classrooms into the 21st century,” she wrote.

The districts in the Success Ready Students Network are: Affton 101, Branson R-IV, Center 58, Confluence Academies charter school, Fayette R-III, Lebanon R-III, Lee’s Summit R-VII, Lewis County C-1, Liberty 53, Lindbergh, Lonedell R-14, Mehlville R-IX, Neosho, Ozark R-VI, Parkway C-2, Pattonville R-III, Raymore-Peculiar R-II, Ritenour, Shell Knob 78 and Ste. Genevieve County R-II.

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