Dr. Chris L. Nicastro, Missouri Commissioner of Education
Dr. Chris L. Nicastro has been a teacher and administrator in Missouri public schools for 38 years. She was appointed Commissioner of Education by the State Board of Education in July 2009 and is the fifth person to serve in the position.
Nicastro's tenure as commissioner has been marked by a number of major accomplishments as she works to improve education for all students in Missouri. Nicastro launched the Top 10 by 20, an improvement initiative for student performance in Missouri to rank among the top 10 performing states by 2020. The plan focuses on four goals: preparing all students for success in college or other postsecondary training and a career; ensuring all children enter kindergarten prepared to be successful in school; preparing, developing and supporting effective educators; and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Working to keep Missouri's education standards among the highest in the nation, Nicastro guided the development of a revision of the Missouri School Improvement Plan (MSIP), helping schools better prepare students for the challenges of postsecondary education and the workplace. She worked to win approval of Missouri's waiver application, releasing the state from provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The waiver allows Missouri to use its own state-developed accountability plan.
Under Nicastro's leadership, the Department developed a model educator evaluation system, providing school districts with tools they can use to evaluate and strengthen the practice of teachers, principals and superintendents. Working with educators across the state, the Department created model curriculum units in English language arts and math as a resource for school districts as they implement Missouri's new core academic standards. A new comprehensive data portal has been developed and provides information to the public and school officials who use the data to improve education practices.
The Department also initiated a statewide public awareness campaign, "Now for Later," to promote the significant impact early childhood education has on a student's long-term academic achievement.
During Nicastro's tenure as commissioner, student scores on the state's Missouri Assessment Program testing have risen, high school graduation rates have increased, and more students than ever before are taking advanced placement courses and tests.
Nicastro has been recognized for her achievements on numerous occasions. The University of Missouri in St. Louis honored her with the Distinguished Alumni Award, the Trailblazer Award and the Presidential Citation Award. St. Louis University designated her a Distinguished Alumnus. Community organizations have acknowledged her service to children and families, and she has received recognition statewide and nationally for her work to promote women and minorities. Local, state and national leadership awards she has received include Missouri Superintendent of the Year, the Missouri NEA—Horace Mann Award and the Outstanding Communicator Award from the National School Public Relations Association.
Nicastro earned a bachelor’s degree in history at Indiana University; a master’s degree in educational administration at the University of Missouri-St. Louis; and a Ph.D. in educational administration at St. Louis University. She holds Missouri certification as a teacher, principal and superintendent.
Nicastro and her husband, Charles, have three children and seven grandchildren.