December 26, 2012 - To the editor:
This is in response to a letter submitted last week by Mr. Mark A. Harris.
Even though I was not able to talk with Mr. Harris prior to his letter being published, I did call him with my response.
Unfortunately, he told me he wasn't available to talk. As of yet, I have not heard back from him. My interest in talking with Mr. Harris has to do with his inaccurate remarks and analyses regarding old Missouri Assessment Program, or MAP, data. Current data from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has yet to be released.
Mr. Harris refers to a link in an early December article that pointed to MAP data from the spring of 2011. Additionally, he refers to this data and interprets percentages as "passing" or "failing." 2011 MAP data was presented in the old Missouri School Improvement Program, or MSIP, Cycle 4 model.
MSIP 4 was tied directly to the federal legislation referred to as No Child Left Behind, which had a goal of making 100 percent of all students in the country "proficient" or "advanced" on their respective state tests. These are the top two categories and do not at all represent students passing or failing the tests.
If one were to refer to the categories of proficient and advanced in terms of a traditional grading system, they would most likely align closest to the grades of A's and B's or some may even suggest A's and A-pluses. In Mr. Harris's letter, he suggested large percentages of our students "failed" the MAP tests in 2011.
In reality, MAP test data in 2011 did not show failing grades.
The lowest category on the MAP test was "below basic." If we were to align this category to a grade, it would most likely resemble a "D," which has always been considered below average.
I can assure Mr. Harris none of our schools throughout the Mehlville School District had a MAP failure percentage of 50 or greater. In fact, I can with confidence tell you only 4.3 percent of our students districtwide were in the below basic category for English Language Arts and 6 percent were below basic for math in 2011.
Keep in mind, even these percentages do not represent failing grades.
I would also like Mr. Harris to know the move to a full-day kindergarten program for all students was a curricular decision designed to further capitalize on early interventions for our young children. Are we focused on MAP test scores? Of course we are. Regardless, I hope we can also stay focused on the real importance of service, vision, trust, community and relationships.
The truth is the Mehlville School District is demonstrating much success.
When the MSIP 5 data is released, our community will see Mehlville as one of the top-performing districts in the state.
In fact, I maintain we are unmatched when student performance, diversity and per-pupil expenditures are considered. I have always known success breeds criticism, and I fully expect continued efforts on the part of some to keep the Mehlville School District from shining too brightly.
As superintendent, it is my commitment to overcome the negativity. We are a high-performing school district demonstrating significant forward motion while maintaining one of the lowest tax rates in St. Louis County. Mehlville is quickly becoming a destination school district.
We are a very transparent operation. You are welcome to attend our board meetings, attend my town-hall meetings, call me, meet with me personally or arrange for a tour of our classrooms. I'll say it again, the Mehlville School District is one of the top-performing districts in the state and I'm proud to be your superintendent.
Please call me at (314) 467-5001 with any thoughts or concerns you may have.
Eric D. Knost
Mehlville School District