There wasn't much to cheer about when the Cape Girardeau School District released its Missouri Assessment Program test scores this week.
There were only two categories where more than half of district students were proficient: fifth-grade physical education and third-grade science.
And the bad news went on from there.
It can be put into perspective when one considers the background and context.
The MAP test first was administered in 1998, and only the math section was used that year. Science, social studies, communications arts and health/physical education were added on.
State education officials implemented the test because it contained less guesswork and required real thinking skills for correct answers.
The scores were dismal the first year, and education leaders across the state said that was to be expected when a new test is administered.
But three years later the news is much the same.
Most of the state scores are below grade level in all five subjects.
Students take the MAP tests only in certain grades to give a snapshot of their progress. For example, only students in fourth, eighth and 11th grades take the social studies test, while only students in fifth and ninth grades take the physical education portion.
With Cape Girardeau's scores in hand for about a week, superintendent Dan Steska hadn't analyzed the data. Jackson superintendent Ron Anderson hadn't either.
The lack of excitement over the scores probably has much to do with the fact that they are relatively meaningless until it comes time for accreditation.
And even though Cape Girardeau's scores are generally worse than they were in 2000, the district would have received accreditation with distinction had students been given two additional disaster drills.
There are no repercussions in funding or job security for these poor scores.
Yes, Cape Girardeau students generally keep pace with their peers in the rest of the state, the MAP results show. Jackson does much better. But considering that the statewide scores include inner-city St. Louis, where it isn't rare for only 5 percent of students to score at proficient and above in any given subject, we should expect more from our students.
Some would argue that focusing on MAP would mean teaching to a test. But if this is the measurement given to show whether our children are performing as they should, more test preparation is in order.
Parents can learn more about MAP on the Web at www.dese.state.mo.us/divimprove/assess. District scores for 2000 can be compared with the rest of the state at www.dese.state.mo.us/planning/profile. Scores for 2001 haven't been posted.