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What Does it Mean When Your School Fails?

What does it mean when you hear in the news that one of Missouri’s public schools is failing? And how is that term, “failing,” different from a school being unaccredited? Today on the Missouri Parent Blog, we’ll answer both of those questions.

School Accreditation
APRs are the state’s primary way of determining accreditation. Every public school, district, and charter local education agency in the state receives an APR based primarily on its performance in five areas.

APRs help the state determine the level of accreditation each school earns. There are four levels of accreditation: Accredited with Distinction, Accredited, Provisionally Accredited, and Unaccredited.

Accreditation holds all schools across the state to the same, measurable, standard of success. It takes into account graduation rates, high school and college preparedness, academic achievement, subgroup achievement, attendance, and other variables.

If a school, district, or charter local education agency earns less than half of the points possible on its APR, it is deemed unaccredited. Losing accreditation is one reason a school might by called “failing,” but it’s not the only reason.

Failing Schools
National dialog about “failing” schools isn’t limited to schools that have lost accreditation. In fact, “failing” is used so broadly in media and policy that it’s sometimes unclear what it takes for a school to pass or fail.

News stories accuse schools of failing when funding levels aren’t high enough, when too many families live below the poverty line, or when parents aren’t engaged enough.

Reformers argue that America’s schools are failing because our students don’t perform as well on tests as students in other nations. And in some states, schools “fail” if they score in the bottom 5% of schools within that state on specific standardized tests.

By that metric, 5% of the schools in the state will always fail, even if 100% of students earn passing test scores.

The media has accused schools of failing because they aren’t modern enough, or because teachers’ unions protect their teachers. It has even said that schools “fail” if they don’t successfully ignite students’ passions. In an ideal world, all teachers would ignite their students’ passions. But is a teacher (or a school) failing if he or she (or it) successfully prepares students for college or career without necessarily lighting a fire in their hearts? Surely a successful education includes more than that.

While researching this post, we read dozens of articles on “failing” schools and school systems, but few of those stories used quantifiable or peer-evaluated standards for passage or failure.

“Failure,” it seems, is an easy label for anyone — politicians, reporters, administrators, reformers — to use to instill a sense of urgency for change. Who’s attention isn’t grabbed at the thought of their child’s school “failing”?

To truly measure a school’s success, though, we need to take into account more than a single politician, journalist, or reformer’s personal viewpoints. We need consistent, measurable standards that ensure that all of Missouri’s public schools offer high-quality educational opportunities to our K-12 students. That’s exactly what Missouri’s school accreditation system does.

For more information about school accreditation, we hope that you’ll explore these posts:

What is the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP)?
MSIP5 Performance Standard: High School (K-8) & College (K-12) Readiness
High School Graduation Rates and School Accreditation
5 Ways Your Student’s School is Evaluated for Accreditation
Academic Achievement & School Accreditation
What are Subgroups, and How Does Missouri Measure Their Achievement?

One of our goals at Missouri Parent is to provide information on Missouri’s MSIP 5 accountability system, including school accreditation, to parents of Missouri’s K-12 public school students. We hope that you’ll bookmark Missouri Parent News, and that you’ll connect with us on Facebook and Twitter to stay informed on school accreditation

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