Missouri EPP Engagement Helps Reshape State Report Card
The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.
Educator preparation providers (EPPs) in many states find themselves under increased pressure to demonstrate accountability, but they often feel powerless to play a role in the development of accountability measures. Accountability often seems to be something that is done to them rather than with them. In Missouri, however, EPPs have played an integral role in the creation of the state’s new report card.
It wasn’t always this way, and the manner in which EPPs came to be involved may be instructive to those working in other states. When the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education first presented a plan for its Annual Program Reports for Education Preparation Programs (APR-EPP), EPPs were also dealing upheaval in other areas too – from changes to certification rules to new expectations for field experiences. The APR-EPP was met with significant resistance in the Show-Me State for many reasons, including the fact that it included a battery of new assessments and a simple Met/Not Met designation.
The response was not reactionary, though. It might, instead, be termed “collaborative resistance.” EPPs had some success by engaging in a dialogue with the state – at every possible opportunity – using logical, evidence-based arguments and offering reasonable alternatives. Implementation of the performance assessment was delayed a year while it was improved; several content exams were altered and candidates were given another opportunity to take them; and some indicators were removed from the report card.
At the same time, representatives from EPPs made proactive contributions to important statewide projects. One workgroup created a common evaluation tool for all student teachers that fit within the existing evaluation model for practicing teachers, and another team revised and field-tested a first-year teacher and employer survey. Both workgroups included EPP faculty, PK-12 personnel, and state agency representatives. These two instruments were aligned to new state standards and will eventually be included in the Missouri APR-EPP.
As EPPs sought new ways to influence policy and practice, the state’s application to join the Network for Transforming Educator Preparation (NTEP) was accepted. Participation in this initiative required the inclusion of people from the state government, from EPPs, and from PK-12 schools, but state government representatives made efforts to be especially inclusive. One subgroup, building upon a core NTEP goal – revising program approval processes – began work to revise the APR-EPP. Realizing that the project would require substantial time, the team settled on a two-stage plan. Short-term changes would be implemented immediately in what came to be termed APR 1.5, while appropriate time would be taken to develop longer term changes to be included in APR 2.0.
The proposal for the transitional APR 1.5 was reviewed by many groups across the state – from the state AACTE chapter to those in charge of the technical aspects of the state data system to the deputy commissioner of the stated department of education. Feedback was incorporated into the proposal, and APR 1.5 debuted in 2017 with several smaller changes and one large one: Instead of each program earning a binary rating of Met or Not Met, with failure to meet on one indicator resulting in an overall Not Met rating, programs earned tiered ratings based on total points (1 to 4).
EPP advocacy has continued beyond this milestone. When a few Missouri newspapers sought to frame the new APR as a method for ranking programs, the state AACTE chapter responded with an eloquent and reasoned justification for focusing on program improvement rather than rankings. At the same time, work has continued on APR 2.0, which will be publicly released in 2019. This newest version, collaboratively constructed over more than a year, will feature an innovation not found in other states. Missouri APR 2.0 will be directly aligned with state standards for professional educators, providing evidence for program improvement that focuses attention on professional knowledge and behaviors instead of on particular assessment instruments.
Missouri’s experience has not been devoid of conflict or occasional disillusionment. It does, however, suggest that EPPs should seek ways to work in concert with state agencies. Strong advocacy, combined with effective communication, can result in positive change.
Beth Kania-Gosche is associate dean in the School of Education at Lindenwood University (MO). Daryl Fridley is associate dean in the College of Education at Southeast Missouri State University.