Less Than Half of Missouri Youth at Grade Level in English, Math | KBIA

Less Than Half of Missouri Youth at Grade Level in English, Math

Oct 18, 2019

Credit Sharon McCutcheon / Unsplash

Less than half of Missouri schoolchildren are performing at grade level in English and math for the second straight year, according to newly released state data that critics complain makes it difficult to tell how individual school districts are faring overall.

At issue is that the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education didn't provide district-level annual performance report scores when it released the data Thursday. Those scores, which were a combination of measures that included test scores, attendance and graduation rates, have been used to make accreditation decisions. In their place, the state released statewide and district level test averages, along with a spreadsheet of color charts and scales that comes with a 77-page guide.

Cici Tompkins, of the nonprofit Children's Education Alliance of Missouri, said that without the single composite score, it's more difficult to hold districts accountable, particularly for families who are eligible to transfer from unaccredited to accredited districts under state law.

"I'm concerned they're denying parents' rights under the transfer law," Tompkins said.

Overall statewide test scores show that 49% of students in the public and charter schools are proficient or advanced in English and 42% in math, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It was the second year that students took a more difficult test that caused steep drops between 2017 and 2018.

The worst-performing district was the provisionally accredited Normandy school system in the St. Louis area. Normandy Superintendent Charles Pearson said the district has "put things in place to move it forward," including a new early childhood center.

The decision not to release overall performance scores was to encourage people to look beyond a single number, state leaders said this week.

"We've heard from so many people, 'Our schools are more than test scores,'" said Margie Vandeven, commissioner of the state board of education.

Although the annual performance report score wasn't released, the state still keeps points for each performance area measured, and districts still have to claim at least 70% of those points to land in accreditation range.

Kansas City Public Schools and the nearby Hickman Mills districts are hoping to regain full accreditation after getting enough points last year, reports The Kansas City Star. But they must wait until next month, when the results for how students performed in science are released to know whether they hit the mark. Even without that data, Kansas City Superintendent Mark Bedell said it "looks promising," likening the district's movement toward accreditation to basketball.

"Right now, we have the ball bouncing on the rim," Bedell said. "We have to wait and see if it goes in."