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Going down, going up: Mixed results in district APR scores

Going down, going up: Mixed results in district APR scores

February 1st, 2019 by Helen Wilbers in Local News

Callaway County school districts performed well overall in their 2018 Annual Performance Reports, released Wednesday by state education officials.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education evaluates each school district annually in order to assess its performance and determine whether the district remains accredited. A district scoring below 70 percent loses its accreditation.

Five main categories (each with several subdivisions) go into the final scores: academic achievement, subgroup achievement, attendance, college and career readiness, and graduation rate.

The scores in each category are determined by three factors. First, DESE averages districts' scores from the past two years to measure progress. It then averages the past three years' scores to measure "status." Finally, the districts' student achievement predictions are compared with actual achievement, and points are assigned.

DESE Communications Coordinator Nancy Bowles noted, in several categories, 2018's APR scores cannot be accurately compared to those from previous years. Students took completely new English language arts and math tests.

"These set a new baseline for measurement going forward," Bowles said.

Students also field-tested a new science test. Science test scores were not published and were not factored in to districts' APR results this year.

A breakdown of the Fulton-58 and New Bloomfield R-3 school districts' APR results follows. South Callaway R-2 and North Callaway R-1 school districts' results will be published in the Sunday edition.

Fulton

Fulton-58's overall APR score decreased by 3.6 percentage points in 2018 after it earned 102.3 of 120 possible points.

"I think the APR piece wasn't quite as high as we were hoping," Superintendent Jacque Cowherd said.

The district improved overall in academic achievement, increasing the score from 75 to 81 percent.

"When we broke down to the individual scores, especially in the ELA and math area, academically, our kids were doing very well," Cowherd said. "Compared to other districts in the conference, we felt good about where we were doing."

As mentioned above, the math and ELA subcategories' scores aren't directly comparable to 2017's scores.

"Students struggled with the social studies test," Assistant Superintendent Ty Crain said. "We're moving that to junior year; we've had our freshmen taking that in the past. Other districts have had success with juniors and seniors taking the test."

Subgroup students — English language-learners, students who qualify for free lunch, etc. — improved over last year's score, to 71 percent from 53.6 percent, an improvement of 17.4 percent. Cowherd said the district will be taking a closer look at those scores in the coming days.

Cowherd noted because the district's scores in academic achievement have held relatively steady, the district isn't getting boosts from progress bonus points.

"A couple years ago, we jumped in our APR, and a good portion of that jump is that we improved so much from the prior year," he said. "Now that we've got that proficiency rate up, we don't get those progress points. There's a lot of conversation going on about whether they continue giving progress and growth points, because there's an argument out there that it's artificially inflating scores. There's also an argument out there that if you don't, districts won't improve."

The district got dinged on college and career readiness, dropping from 91.7 to 83.3 percent. The drop was related to post-secondary placement scores. Standardized testing indicators held steady at 7.5 of 10.

"In order to get full 10 points, students need to be 71.5 percent (proficient or better)," Crain said. "We were at 69.8. So we lost 2.5 points there. That equates to about two students (missing the proficiency mark)."

Attendance held steady at 7.5 of 10, as it has since 2016.

"In order to get 10, you have to get 90 percent attendance for the district," Crain said. "We were at 89.5."

Last year, Cowherd mentioned the district was considering bringing in outside programming to boost attendance. The district opted against it, he said.

"We're focused efforts on just encouraging students to get here," he said. "We reviewed some potential programming in central office and while they were making improvements in other districts, our attendance was higher than those districts they improved."

The district did score a perfect 100 percent on graduation.

"We have a game plan to work on," Cowherd said. "We've got a lot of good things going on in our district. Our principals are focused on curriculum, focused on particular kids and trying to do strategies to help all the kids. (In a horse race), first place wins by a nose, but second place is still second place. We're going to get (our) nose up there next year."

District officials will further discuss APR results at the Feb. 13 board of education meeting, he added.

New Bloomfield

New Bloomfield R-3 had its highest score of the last five years on the APR, improving by about 2 percent over 2017's overall score.

"The score being at 99.2 is great," Superintendent Sarah Wisdom said. "It shows the hard work of our staff and our students."

The district scored high in academic achievement, earning 39 of 40 possible points (97.6 percent). Scores in math, ELA and social studies matched 2017's scores at 15/16, 16/16 and 8/8, respectively, though DESE notes those first two categories can't be directly compared.

Students in the subgroup category also excelled academically, earning 10 of 10 points compared to 2017's 71.4 percent.

"We've really hammered home curriculum the last couple of years, getting our teachers to get a curriculum down we can change as needed," Wisdom said.

She added while the district can't compare several major categories to last year's scores, students take other assessments that can be compared year-to-year to assess district progress.

District students improved in college and career readiness, gaining 2.5 points to score 30 of 30. The gain came in a category that assesses performance on tests such as the ACT, SAT and WorkKeys.

"Since we're a smaller school, one or two kids can fluctuate our score pretty fast," Wisdom said. "Now, more tests are being put into that category, including the WorkKeys test. Kids who aren't college-bound can take those tests."

Having additional students' scores factored in helps even out the district's performance in the category, she explained.

Lastly, the district earned perfect scores in both attendance (improving by 25 percent) and graduation (no change). Wisdom said she feels the district can always improve.

"The two areas we're really looking at to improve is attendance — that's always something we look at — and, of course, our academics, making sure the rigor is in our curriculum," she said. "We've put little things in place, such as changes to our advisory time, that will hopefully make those impacts."