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State Board of Education Considers Waiver

September 30, 1999
By: Francie Krantz
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Bureaucratic red tape could be eliminated from the Columbia school system provided the students perform at a high level under a new proposal by the State Board of Education.

The State Board of Education proposed a policy last week that would allow school district officials to request certain exemptions from the statewide accreditation process, as long as their district meets specific performance criteria.

"The goal of the State Board of Education is to raise student achievement and school performance," said Betty Preston, Board president, in a press release. "We are serious about reducing regulations and any 'red tape' that hinder many local efforts to reach these goals."

Under the standards of the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP), which was passed into law by the legislature in 1993, each of the state's 524 school districts must complete a formal evaluation for accreditation once every five years. A school district that fails to garner accreditation could be assessed a variety of penalties or even be forced to dissolve, said Bob Bartman, state commissioner of education.

However, the statute also allows the State Board of Education, which administers the accreditation process through MSIP, the right to grant certain waivers.

The Columbia Public School District, which is due for a renewal of its accreditation in May of next year, is just one of many districts that could benefit from the proposed waiver. Under this proposal, the on-site review portion of the accreditation process could be bypassed.

Lance Hutton, assistant director of MSIP, said many local school districts see the on-site review as the most time-consuming part of the accreditation process, mainly due to the sheer magnitude of documentation that must be compiled.

"We hear a lot of complaints from local districts because a lot of time and energy goes into the on-site review," Hutton said. "We ought to recognize that some schools are doing an outstanding job in the state and cut them some slack."

Bartman called the waiver policy a "win-win" situation, because school officials would be able to concentrate more on teaching and less on administrative concerns.

"At the same time, we could expand our resources on districts that need a lot more help, and continue to help them improve," he said.

Jim Morris, spokesman for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said the proposed waiver policy will be submitted to local school districts and administrators for comments and suggestions in the next few weeks. The Board will then review public reaction and consider final action on the waiver plan in December or January.