Scores on last spring's Missouri Assessment Program tests show many Southeast Missouri schools making gradual improvements. In a sampling of local school districts, percentages of students meeting or exceeding progress standards under the federal No Child Left Behind law rose and fell in small amounts.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released the data Tuesday.
It is helpful to look at the changes in the percentages overall, according to local school district administrators, but this year, as in years past, they are looking ahead no matter what the numbers say.
"We know where we need to improve, we know how, and we have plans in place," said Dr. Sherry Copeland, assistant superintendent in the Cape Girardeau School District. Copeland oversees curriculum and instruction in the district, and said although the district as a whole did not make the gains on MAP test scoring this year many had hoped for, there are ongoing changes in the district that administrators believe will improve achievement. Overall, the district's averaged percentage of third- through eighth-graders who scored proficient or above on MAP communication arts and math tests was nearly the same as in 2011, with around 48 percent in communication arts and 50 percent in math.
Overall, the statewide percentages of students scoring on MAP tests at levels deemed proficient or above increased again slightly this year, from 54.6 to 55 percent in communication arts and from 54.3 to 55 percent in math, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
By breaking down the MAP data, Copeland said, district staff can identify "pockets" of progress and concern within student subgroups and buildings and know where to focus their efforts, a strategy that follows along with a series of interventions to aid student achievement the district plans to expand into all classrooms in the coming school year. For example, special education students at Blanchard Elementary were targeted last year and showed improved scores this year.
The intervention model, known as professional learning communities, has pieces that promote good academic and behavioral habits. Differentiated instruction, which allows for educators to know and work with a student's individual strengths and weaknesses, is also promoted within the model, and, according to Copeland, will likely increase test scores.
"We know our payoff will come from the process we are putting in place," she said.
Dr. Rita Fisher, assistant superintendent in the Jackson School District, credits the work of her district's staff with professional learning community models as key to the constant, continuous overall improvement made by Jackson students on standardized testing. Overall percentages of third- through eighth-grade students who scored proficient or above in communication arts rose slightly from 2011 but took a slight dip in math. One subgroup where scores fell was third-grade communication arts, which school officials are going to look at.
"I think our district overall is high-achieving, and I am proud of our students and teachers," Fisher said. "But these scores are always good to have because we always dissect the information and try to figure out the places we need to improve."
Jackson is in its seventh year of using professional learning communities in one elementary and in its third year in all other buildings. Fisher said MAP scores have improved since the model was instituted.
Cape Girardeau Central High School has used professional learning community interventions since the 2007-2008 school year. School officials said the program hasn't been around long enough to say definitively what the effect has been.
The upcoming school year is the first that Missouri's public school educators will experience no sanctions coming from the federal government in the case their schools or districts did not meet a set number of progress indicators that measured "adequate yearly progress," as set by No Child Left Behind. Indicators were based on MAP scores. The U.S. Department of Education granted Missouri and 32 other states waivers to provisions of the law earlier this year, one of which required all students to be proficient in communication arts and math by 2014. Targets for 2012 were to have 81.7 percent proficient in math and 83.7 percent proficient in communication arts. The targets have risen around eight percentage points per year since the law was enacted in 2002. Missouri is working out its own state-run accountability system, which is required for the waiver to apply.
A full report of local school district MAP test scores is viewable and downloadable through DESE's online data portal at mcds.dese.mo.gov.
301 N. Clark Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO
614 E. Adams St., Jackson, MO