Local school district superintendents are still wrestling with how to interpret a new Annual Performance Review results system.
"I'm not even sure how we'll present this to the board," Fulton Public Schools Superintendent Jacque Cowherd said Friday morning. "(Assistant Superintendent) Ty Crain is working on that now."
Though the data collected by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is the same, the results DESE sent out to media and districts look wildly different. Gone are the neat point totals for each of the five standards meant to assess districts' performance.
Instead, districts received three separate color-coded performance ratings in each area of assessment.
Before diving into how each of Callaway County's four public school districts performed, it's important to gain a base understanding of how this new system works.
The basic areas of assessment haven't changed. Districts are still rated on academic achievement, college and career readiness, attendance, graduation rate and subgroup achievement. (Subgroup achievement focuses in on the performance of students who are black or Latino, those who have disablilities, are English language learners, or participate in the free and reduced-priced lunch program.)
Likewise, districts have always been measured in three ways in each area. DESE takes into account a district's three-year average score in each category ("growth"), individual gains across two years by students ("status") and year-to-year progress at the district level ("progress").
But while DESE previously assigned points in each area and combined them into a single, easy-to-digest total score for each category, this year, those three scores are kept separate. They're also not given a single numerical value on the summary sheet provided by DESE. Instead, they're color-coded to show how the district's performance compares to DESE expectations.
For example, if a district had a 5-percent increase in its attendance from 2018-19, its progress in that category would be color-coded blue (for exceeding expectations).
Districts are rated as floor (below standard), approaching, on track or target/exceeding expectations.
Relatively new tests in English language arts and math mean district performance in those categories can only be compared to last year. This is also the first year for a new science test; DESE is still processing those results and will release them in November. A new social science test is in the field-testing phase, and no results will be released this year.
The Fulton Sun will conduct in-depth follow up interviews in November when science results are released.
Fulton Public Schools
FPS's results show struggles in academic performance for both the general population and subgroup students. In each assessment category for both ELA and math, the district ranked either floor (below standard) or approaching. Overall proficiency decreased slightly from 2018-19 in English and by about 5 percent in math.
"We're struggling in middle school and high school math," Cowherd said. "To deal with that, we've reassigned one of our stellar teachers to be a math coach."
The teacher will work with students and teachers alike to improve math teaching and comprehension. FPS has secured a grant from University of Missouri to hire experts to analyze the math curriculum. The district has also implemented benchmark testing at the elementary and middle school level, which will help teachers assess student skills throughout the year and make immediate tweaks to teaching.
"However, our elementary schools were very strong — above state average in those areas," Cowherd said. "We want to be even better than that."
The district is meeting targets or on track throughout college and career readiness and is also on track with graduation rates and attendance. Currently, 87.5 percent of students are in class 90 percent of the time — just shy of DESE's 90 percent goal.
Cowherd said the constantly shifting tests and result delivery methods have been tough on the district.
"Are we frustrated? Yes," he said. "We never know what the target is."
But there's one up-side to the color-coded results, he said.
"It's easier to look at, once you get on board," he said. "Most people are used to looking at stop lights. I like that it's more visual."
South Callaway R-2
South Callaway R-2 is a frequent high-performer, and this year is no exception.
"My outlook on the report is not very deep right now," Superintendent Kevin Hillman said. "There have been different state assessments in areas over the last three years and so it is hard to compare that data. With all of that in mind, South Callaway feels that we are pleased and continuing to trend in a positive mode."
The district earned exceeding or on-track ratings in growth and status for academic achievement. Subgroup achievement was slightly lower.
"It's all over the place, which is historically the case," Hillman said. "This represents lower number of students and takes some time to drive down the data to determine if something needs changed or if a result is a short-term result. We have some vastly improved areas here and some that have not moved as quickly as we would like."
He noted the "status" category for academic achievement (which measures individual students' improvement over time) shows growth.
The district held steady with high marks in college and career readiness.
"Attendance was a problem area a few years ago, but we have been very consistent and strong the last few years," Hillman said. "This is a big thank you to our parents and hard they work to have kids in school."
South Callaway also rated on track to target in graduation.
"The overall first impression of the report for me is very good," Hillman said. "We will take time with our administrative team to dive deeper through the report to see what adjustments we feel will be beneficial for our students."
New Bloomfield R-3
New Bloomfield R-3 saw mixed results in academic achievement categories. In ELA, the district rated floor and approaching in growth and status, respectively, but on track in progress — indicating overall improvement in district performance. (Subgroup students earned an exceeding in ELA progress.) In math, the district rated on track in growth (for the three-year average) but lower in other categories.
"We are certainly celebrating our successes and making a plan for a few areas of improvement," Superintendent Sarah Wisdom said. "An area of celebration is our continued growth in academic achievement and post-secondary placement."
She said the district planned to continue working to improve in college and career readiness. Though the district met state targets in performance, scores improved little from the previous year.
The district also met targets for attendance and graduation rates.
Wisdom said she's looking forward to the stability DESE has promised in future testing.
"Although we are still in the process of digging deeper into the data given, we do feel that when we have a few years with the same test (and) the new form, (we) will be able to develop strategic plans that will improve the district's focus," Wisdom said. "We will continue to celebrate our successes and strive to give each student the best education possible."
North Callaway R-1
North Callaway R-1 earned impressive marks in academic achievement, rating mostly exceeding in both growth and progress for both the subgroups and general student body.
Assistant Superintendent Nicky Kemp said those results are a particular point of pride for the district this year.
"The highlights of the APR for the district are academic achievement and subgroup achievement in (ELA) and math," she said. "In (ELA), the district is pleased to see we have received the rating of exceeding in both progress and growth areas. In mathematics, individual student scores have been rated on track for achievement."
In the area of post-secondary placement, the district is currently on target and exceeding the state's expectations in the area of progress.
"From the initial evaluation of the data, the reintroduction of AP courses, along with advanced classes already in place at North Callaway High School, have assisted the district in maintaining its on-track rating for advanced placement," Kemp said.
Though the district's two-year average on attendance has decreased slightly, it continues to meet the state's goal of 90 percent of students attending school more than 90 percent of the time. North Callaway is also rated highly on graduation rates.
"The district is encouraged by the gains made by our students in the areas reported by the state on the APR and appreciate the dedication of our students, parents and staff," Kemp said.