The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released its 2014 Annual Performance Reports this week, and while the Sedalia School District 200 received fewer points than in 2013, district officials said the slight drop was expected.
The progress report is given to districts statewide, and the results are based on students’ performance in the Missouri Assessment Program tests given last spring. Sedalia 200 received 118.5 out of a possible 140 points in its progress report, which is 7.5 points fewer than its 2013 score of 126. Both Superintendent Brad Pollitt and Director of Curriculum Instruction and Assessment Carla Wheeler said the slight decrease was something they were prepared to see.
“We were prepared for a possibly slight decrease in our APR just from the fact that I made the decision last year we were going to fully implement the Missouri Learning Standards a year ahead of time, and with the test being over the GLEs, we knew there was some connection but not a lot,” Pollitt said. “Our teachers worked hard to implement those objectives, so we knew there’d be some disconnect with the test and what we were teaching, so we anticipated a slight decrease and that’s what happened.
“A one year decrease doesn’t tell the story of a district’s academic ability and that’s the reason why in DESE’s evaluation procedure they use three years of data.”
“No one ever wants to go down, but it’s a transition year and it was expected,” Wheeler said. “We still feel good about what we’re doing.”
While the district’s overall score was slightly lower than last year, several categories saw an increase in points. Sedalia 200 students were down 2.1 MAP index points in English Language Arts and down 1.1 in math, but logged increases of 4.9 points in science and 15.2 points in social studies. Pollitt also said he was “pleased with individual student growth,” which is scored until eighth grade.
“It compares a student to themselves, there’s two scores for each student,” Wheeler said. “As long as they have a year’s growth or have expected growth they statistically should show, you get credit for that, and we got credit for all of those in the elementary.”
Overall the district is on track with schools statewide — statewide averages showed small MAP index point declines from 2013 to 2014 in ELA, math and science, but an increase in social studies.
Wheeler and Pollitt both said the district is looking to improve in the College and Career Readiness category, which correlates to the number of students taking advanced academic tests, such as the ACT. The district was less than .1 percent away from earning another 1.5 points in the category. Pollitt said about 50 students didn’t take one of the qualifying tests this past year, and the district is working to provide more opportunities for students to take those tests.
Pollitt noted that while the APR results are important for the district, test scores aren’t the only marker of a successful student.
“I know test scores are just a small smidgen of what a student’s total school life is all about. If we gained (points) I would still say the same thing,” he said. “Test scores are extremely important, student achievement is extremely important, so are the other aspects of the school life. We really do try to give a balanced approach for students, we offer a number of activities for them to be involved in, and we do quite well in those areas as well.”
An adjustment is expected in next year’s results as well, as the district continues to utilize technology to prepare students for taking next year’s standardized test on a computer. Second graders will take a computer class to help them become more familiar with using a computer.
“We have faith in our instructional staff, and our administrators, and our students, that once the test gets aligned to the Missouri Learning Standards we’ll see an increase,” Pollitt said.
District officials, especially Pollitt, continually emphasize the importance of student attendance, and that missing just a few days can have a large impact on a student’s academic success. Pollitt again brought up the topic while talking about APR results with the Democrat.
“When the new goal for DESE is 90 percent of students at school for 90 percent of the time, and we’re looking at the middle 70s at the junior and senior high, maybe a little higher at the junior high, that’s a concern,” Pollitt said. “We’ve got to get the kids here in order to educate them. Our social workers go out to get kids in school, especially at the elementary level, and sometimes they get some push back from upset parents on why we’re meddling in that area, but it’s important. And we get held accountable for it. Attendance is a big deal.”