State board approves three-year System Design Zone innovation waiver

On Aug. 15, the Missouri State Board of Education approved a three-year innovation waiver for 20 school districts that are part of the Success-Ready Students Network’s (SRSN) System Design Zone (SDZ), including Pattonville School District. The SDZ supports the creation of a more meaningful way to measure student learning, demonstrate individual student growth and influence future success for all Missouri students.

The districts in the SDZ asked the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) for exemptions from specific state requirements in order to improve student readiness for their post-high school life and promote professional learning for teachers. With the waiver, SDZ districts will have the opportunity to to use growth-based assessments throughout the school year, rather than just using Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) as the sole measure of academic achievement. In Pattonville, this will be the STAR assessments in reading and math in grades 3-8 which are administered three times during the school year and showcase student growth and provide immediate feedback for students, teachers and families. At this time, there will be no changes with high school assessment and End of Course exams (EOCs) for the purposes of sharing performance data. This approach to assessment aligns with current district work and allows teachers to better understand and support student learning. Districts in the SDZ will continue to administer the MAP test unless a federal waiver request currently being created by the SDZ and DESE is approved by the U.S. Department of Education. The districts will use information from these assessments to design an alternative to the MSIP 6 accountability system that supports students in being high school, college, career and workplace ready. 

The SDZ work will begin this fall and continue through the 2025-2026 school year. Some of the key components of a new measurement system would include: 

  • Measuring student growth multiple times throughout the school year;
  • Providing immediate, timely feedback for the student, teacher and parents;
  • Providing students with awareness of where they are and engaging them in setting goals;
  • Using different pathways and varied pacing to assist in active student learning;
  • Assessing student progress based on evidence of mastery, not seat time; and
  • Engaging students in real-world learning experiences that support high school, college, career and workplace readiness.

During the three-year waiver period, SDZ districts will have an alternative accreditation plan separate from DESE’s existing Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) 6 Annual Performance Report (APR). Part of the waiver includes holding SDZ districts at their current accreditation classification during the waiver period, meaning Pattonville will remain accredited. The SDZ will also look at an alternative method to determine a district’s APR, including an alternate measurement to better represent a student’s learning status.

Districts will also engage students in acquiring new Market Value Assets (MVAs) to help them prepare for success in college, career and life after graduation. MVA’s focus on real world learning experiences and include internships, industry-recognized certifications, entrepreneurship and college credit programs. Programs like Pattonville High School’s Extended Learning Opportunities (ELOs) are an example of innovative ideas that would be implemented and count toward a district’s performance.

"We are pleased with the Missouri State Board of Education's decision to approve the three-year innovation waiver for the System Design Zone, which includes Pattonville School District,” superintendent Barry Nelson said. “This waiver aligns with our ongoing commitment to individual student growth and providing comprehensive support for students as they journey towards high school, college and career readiness. By utilizing the STAR assessments in grades 3-8, we are utilizing an effective approach to evaluate student learning and guide instructional practices throughout the school year. This system recognizes student growth and fosters an environment where students, teachers and families receive immediate feedback. The waiver also champions our work with innovative programs like ELOs, further supporting our dedication to equipping our students with real-world experiences that will serve them after high school graduation. Together with our fellow districts in the SDZ, we are working to reshape student assessment to be more responsive, flexible and meaningful for all Missouri students.”

The SDZ is made up of 19 public school districts and one charter school from across the state, including the school districts of Affton, Confluence Academy, Lindbergh, Mehlville, Parkway, Pattonville and Ritenour in the St. Louis area, as well as Center, Lee's Summit, Liberty and Raymore-Peculiar in the Kansas City area; Branson, Lebanon, Neosho, Ozark and Shell Knob in the southwest region; and Fayette, Lewis Co. C-1, Lonedell and Ste. Genevieve in central and north and south east Missouri. The SDZ is part of the SRSN, a collaborative initiative consisting of 59 Missouri school districts, four universities and 14 state and regional education organizations, working in collaboration with DESE to personalize learning in ways that ensure every student has the knowledge, skills and dispositions they need to be high school, college, career and workplace ready.

"Students are at the center of this work," said Dr. Mike Fulton, SRSN facilitator and retired Pattonville superintendent. "We want to focus on learning, and make sure that this work honors all children in Missouri, developing approaches that meet all of their needs to become high school, college, career and workplace ready."