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Missouri Tries to Avoid Outcome-Based Ed. Mistakes

State Capital Bureau

May 04, 1995

NOTE: Sidebar to the main story STANDARD.HTM

JEFFERSON CITY _ Missouri's professional educators have tried to learn from the mistakes of others in implementing outcomes-based education.

The state Education Department brought in four assessment "experts" from across the nation: Edward Roeber, student assessment program director for the Council of Chief State School Officers; Bob Gabrys, Maryland's assistant state superintendent for development; Timothy Crockett, Director of program management for a test publisher that distributes to several states; Daniel Murray, midwestern regional office executive director for the College Board. The panelists explained their difficulties in implementing their programs.

About 20 states use criteria like Missouri's proposed performance standards, but the traditional multiple choice test is still the most typical way to judge students, Roeber said.

In performance-based schools, Crockett said assessment is seen as a system, not as an on-demand test.

"The tests are not snapshots in time," Crockett said. "Every time teachers are involved in their work, they are assessing what kids can do. This informal assessment is already going on."

Although the College Board developed probably the best-known multiple-choice test, the SAT, Murray said the group currently is implementing a performance-based program called Pacesetter. Students begin to work on Pacesetter skills while in elementary school even though the classes are viewed as capstone courses, Murray said.

To participate in Pacesetter, teachers are required to attend several professional development sessions sponsored by the Board.

"It teaches them a variety of approaches," Murray said. "Often teachers choose techniques that work best with the teachers instead of what is best for the students."

The panelists warned Missouri about the local costs of money and time for administering and scoring. Because most teachers do not have experience giving these types of tests, Crockett cited ongoing professional development as the largest hidden cost.

"More than anything else, most states say they wished they would have had their eyes open to what the real costs are," Crockett said.

The cost of Maryland's program, which is in its fifth year, ranges from $20 to $25 per student, Gabrys said.

Unlike those in Missouri, Maryland's reforms were a result of grassroots efforts by business and community leaders. A group of the state's largest corporations even refused to endorse gubernatorial candidates who were against the reforms, Gabrys said.

Roeber said businesses were begging for the reforms because many students who don't have practical skills are promptly fired from their jobs.

"It wasn't due to their academic performance," Roeber said. "It was their behavior and values."

Gabrys said some parents question the new system because they believe a single test exists that is able to tell everything about a student. He stressed the importance of parents taking time to adjust to the dramatic changes.

Under the new system, parents who were accustomed to their child bringing home report cards with A's might be upset when they instead see a report of what skills their children need to master, Crockett said.

"Parents are quick to judge something is wrong when they bring home the report card," Crockett said. "Until that communication bridge is built, there is going to be a lot of turmoil."