Cape schools' rating puts 'accredited' status in jeopardy

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Under a not-yet-implemented evaluation system for school-district accreditation, the Cape Girardeau School District achieved a score of 60.4 percent. That resulted in an unofficial "provisionally accredited" rating from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The rating differs from the "accredited" status the district has enjoyed under current and previous evaluation systems, but its score under the new system has administrators seeking to improve in certain areas.

"We weren't pleased when we learned of our score," said Dr. James Welker, district superintendent. "But I'd like to stress that the district is not currently under provisional accreditation. We're fully accredited and intend to stay that way."

At issue is a new version of district accreditation, still in the draft stage, known as the Missouri School Improvement Program Version Five (MSIP5). The system will become the state's new school accountability system for reviewing and accrediting public schools by fall 2015. It emphasizes variables such as student achievement, graduation rates and post-graduation student placement.

The score the district received was a result of applying old data to a new format.

"Three years' worth of our district data was applied to MSIP5," Welker said. "Now that we know what DESE is wanting from us, we believe the numbers from the current school year will raise our score."

The district received full points for its graduation rate, which last year improved from 67 percent to 81 percent, but Welker acknowledged the district needs to improve student achievement. He discussed a plan -- the Professional Learning Community -- launched in 2012 to address this concern,

"PLC is our way to focus on student achievement," Welker said. "It emphasizes learning in the classroom and also a culture of student-teacher cooperation. It's our own data-based plan for improvement, and we're confident that our focus on student performance will raise our standardized test and end-of-course exam scores."

Post-graduation placement also is an area the district will analyze for improvement.

"We have to report the percentage of graduates who, within six months of graduation, are placed in the vocation they planned to be in," said Dr. Sherry Copeland, assistant superintendent. "We believe a poor economy may be playing a part in our graduates not getting into their chosen vocation. But we plan to have more contact with graduates and find out why they're not in their field."

Copeland said the district is doing everything it can to improve.

"We're a proactive school district," she said. "If we did nothing, then the community could expect us to have a low MSIP5 score in the future. But that's not who we are."

Another school district with a low score as assessed by MSIP5 standards was in Bloomfield, Mo., where a showing of 63.5 percent also would have resulted in provisional accreditation.

"We're currently an accredited district with distinction," said Toni Hill, superintendent of the Bloomfield School District. "So seeing the numbers released by DESE was a surprise."

Hill said the district's graduation rate needs improvement.

"We didn't score all of the points we could have with graduation rates, and we also struggled with student achievement and student placement after graduation," she said.

Like Welker, Hill said steps are being taken to improve the district's MSIP5 score.

"We're beginning new curriculum work aligned with our core standards," she said. "We think that will improve our student achievement score, and we plan to have more one-on-one with our students to find out what they plan to be doing after graduation."

Hill said analyzing the district's problems will be easy, but solving them may be another matter.

"We'll look at all of our data and begin the uphill climb," she said.


Pertinent address:

301 N. Clark St., Cape Girardeau, MO

505 Court St., Bloomfield, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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