The Intersection

Missouri Education Committee Builds Consensus for Meaningful Change

September 16, 2019

Strong Leadership for an Aligned Missouri
During his first year in office, Missouri Governor Mike Parson identified two areas of focus—infrastructure and workforce development. Both of these topics require a great deal of support and collaboration from all state networks, and it takes strong leadership to facilitate these relationships and strengthen coordination between all stakeholders. To build on this work, newly reappointed Commissioner of Education Dr. Margie Vandeven wanted to set a strategic plan for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (DESE) work by evaluating the successes and challenges of Missouri’s current education landscape and identifying a number of areas for growth.

Building Consensus Around Common Goals
Commissioner Vandeven worked with The Hunt Institute and Education Commission of the States to create the Commissioner’s Education Policy Committee (Committee), which was generously supported by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Committee, chaired by Senator David Pearce, brought together 33 bipartisan leaders from across Missouri who represented a diverse range of perspectives – including representatives from the Governor’s Office, the Secretary of State, the legislature, and the Missouri Board of Education as well as business representatives, districts superintendents, principals, and teachers, among other constituencies. The makeup of the group, as well as the structure of the Committee meetings, helped to ensure that a wide range of voices are not only heard, but are also able to learn from one another.

Meaningful Discussions for Meaningful Change
The Committee met twice over the course of the spring in Columbia, MO, discussing the following six foundational topics:

  • Building the Workforce through Early Childhood Education
  • Teacher Preparation, Recruitment, and Retention
  • Workforce Development & Tomorrow’s Economy
  • Innovative & Flexible School Structures
  • Using Data Systems
  • Redesigning Accountability Systems

These topics were chosen based on the State Board of Education’s eight priorities for the state’s strategic plan as well as DESE’s existing strategic plan. Three topics were discussed in detail during each Committee meeting, as members reviewed the national and state landscape for each and then participated in both small and full-group discussions to identify what DESE’s priorities should be within each topic. All Committee members made meaningful and thoughtful contributions to the discussions, and it was encouraging to witness these leaders identify ways that they can help move this important work forward in the future.

The goal of each meeting was to provide a set of final recommendations to Commissioner Vandeven as she and the Board of Education continue to refine DESE’s priorities to advance educational outcomes for all students in the state of Missouri. For each conversation, The Hunt Institute compiled a set of action steps based on the Committee’s recommendations, which were then made into a final report outlining recommended priorities and action steps for the state moving forward. On August 13, Senator David Pearce, the Committee’s Chair, presented the Missouri State Board of Education with the final report, which was received positively.

The Path Forward
The Commissioner’s Education Policy Committee was a great step for identifying priorities and goals for DESE and the State Board of Education, but it is clear that the work is far from complete. The final report has given Commissioner Vandeven a strong base for continuing the important work she has always done, and with the Committee she had a strong network of stakeholders from across the state who are ready and eager to support her work and provide feedback on critical issues. Her enthusiasm for listening to as many voices as possible shows her dedication to improving educational opportunities for all children in Missouri. We at The Hunt Institute are grateful for the opportunity to play a role in these conversations and look forward to continuing to work with Commissioner Vandeven and the rest of the Committee to accomplish these important goals.


Julia Cunningham
Policy Analyst
The Hunt Institute

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