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Mehlville officials are pleased with significant gains in MAP scores


August 31, 2005 - By MIKE ANTHONY

Executive Editor

Mehlville School District officials are pleased with the significant gains made on Missouri Assessment Program scores, but say it's too soon to know whether the im-provement will be enough to qualify the district for the state's Distinction in Per-formance Award.

During a presentation last week by Con-nie Hurst-Bayless, assistant superintendent for curriculum, Board of Education members were told that Mehlville students made significant improvement on last spring's MAP testing compared to the previous year.

Students in grades three, seven and 11 took the communications arts MAP test. Overall, the district showed positive gains in middle school and high school scores and a slight decline in elementary scores.

Students in grades four, eight and 10 took the mathematics MAP test. Overall, the district showed positive gains in elementary and middle school scores and a slight decline in high school scores.

District officials will not know whether Mehlville will receive the Distinction in Performance Award until the Missouri De-partment of Elementary and Secondary Education issues the district's Annual Performance Report later this year. The Annual Performance Report details how school districts met Missouri School Im-provement Plan performance measures and MAP standards.

The Mehlville School District received 73 points on its 2004 Annual Performance Report, a drop of 27 points from the perfect score of 100 it earned the previous two years when it received the Distinction in Performance Award. To qualify for the award, districts must meet 11 of 12 MSIP performance standards, which include MAP test scores, ACT test scores, ad-vanced course offerings, college placement, vocational placement, dropout rate and attendance rate.

Mehlville did not meet standards in three areas based on tests administered in the spring of 2004 — MAP grades six through eight and the reading index in grade three and grade seven. Not meeting the standards in the three areas cost the district 27 points on its 2004 APR as compared to the previous two years.

In December, Superintendent Tim Ricker and administrators unveiled a plan of ac-tion designed to achieve "immediate im-provement'' in test scores.

During her presentation, Hurst-Bayless said, "... As more data becomes available from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, we will continue to analyze our strengths, areas for improvement and our weaknesses. It's really important that we look at all of those areas. We implemented a MAP plan. We shared that, I think, with the board earlier, but we al-ready have implemented a MAP plan for this year for communication arts and mathematics and it actually extends across other subject areas. And so we're going to continue to stay that course and then continue to look back to the data that we're receiving daily really on the Web site for DESE.

"We're going to continue to provide updates to the Board of Education and then I'd like to tell you a little bit more. We noticed that in communication arts, the improvements were at the middle school and high school level, but we really want to take a look and see data on the elementary communication arts and specify target areas for improvement ... We had a writing project and it worked very well for middle school and high school. We felt like it was working well at the elementary. So as we analyze that data, just first blush, we got the content standards report off the Web site — actually got the information this week — and it looks like that the state dropped as I mentioned earlier in the writing area,'' she said, adding that district officials need to learn why statewide scores dropped 10 percent.

"... In mathematics, we showed improvements across all levels. So we're excited about what's going on in our math program and we have some plans this year with our MAP plan. There's a lot of recommendations. For example, on your ACT document on Page 2 it gives recommendations to the district and we are following those recommendations. They will have ramifications and implications for the MAP as well as ACT ...,'' she said.

At one point, board member Karl Frank Jr. noted that the district did not receive the Distinction in Performance recognition last year and asked whether the MAP scores showed enough improvement this year to earn that honor.

"Well, we don't know that yet because it hasn't been calculated yet by DESE. That will be available near the end of September and October,'' Ricker said, noting administrators are continuing to review the data the district has received. "... There could be some adjustments. So we'll be going through individual student by student, looking at the data to make sure that it's accurate. DESE gives us a time to rectify any inaccuracies either on our end or their end and then that will be coming out later on. So there's six different ways to calculate improvement or calculate the categories for APR and we've made significant improvements in five of the six areas. There's an improvement area that we're looking at at this point in time. Con-nie's been in contact with DESE to look at what that im-provement area is ...''

Hurst-Bayless said, "... We're not sure we've made enough. We made improvement, but we're not sure we made enough and so looking at the DESE timeline, they're not completely sure. So I'll know more as I get into it with DESE, but we've tried to do the analysis on the APR and right now I have the dates for APR and it says Sept. 15th is the preliminary APR reports available through a secure password for the district. And then we have like from Sept. 15th to Oct. 14th for corrections for the APR and MAP. So it's premature. I think it's going to be really difficult based on the way that DESE calculates those points for us to make a lot of gains. But I really am hopeful that because of the significant gains we made at the middle school level, for example, that we can bump that up. But again, I'll explain that or someone will explain that to the board in detail. We should really wait though a little bit. It's a little premature right now. Right now, it's speculation.''

Frank said, "Depending on what it is that we're talking about, you know, we're talking about administrators' sal-aries, we're talking about teachers' salaries or tax-rate in-creases, that kind of thing, depending on what it is we're talking about, we compare ourselves to different things. So we always commonly talk about benchmark schools that are in the area and not to demean any of the improvements that we've made, but if we look at our neighboring schools like Fox and Lindbergh, and, you know, Rockwood, we're be-hind all of them and some of them drastically ...''

Ricker said, "We will continue to use those benchmark school districts not only for performance, but as you said per-pupil expenditure, resources, things of that nature to compare our district as a standard. We've kept those standards very high. We could have picked other school districts to compare ourselves to, but those school districts are the school districts in the metro area that we most likely — our community and our families look at.

"Obviously, we have some room to grow and some room to improve. That's why we picked those school districts because those are the school districts that we feel that we need to compare ourselves to. We would love to be at or above all of those. We know that's not going to happen any one given year. It's going to take some time to do that because we didn't start at the same location with them as well. So are we thankful for the work that the teachers did this year with the students and the work the students and the parents did? Most definitely. We've shown significant improvement in five of six areas ... Do we have a long way to go? You're doggone right because our goal is to have every — as No Child Left Behind says — every student at those proficient and advanced proficient levels,'' he said, referring to the five MAP levels, which include Step 1, Progressing, Nearing Proficient, Proficient and Advanced Proficient.

"We continue to move kids out of that lower two quintiles into the upper two quintiles, but as I mentioned last year the significant area that we need to show improvement in is that nearing proficiency category, which is that middle category. And the state chose to set cut levels when the first set of MAP scores came out for AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) and for APR very, very high and that is what we are, all school districts are compared to. We'll continue as the spring testing comes through, we will continue to work on getting every one of our students in those upper two levels and we think with the changing from a five quintile category to a four (next year), we're likely, as the rest of the states in the union have done, that our middle category kids will do better than we are currently showing in the near proficiency level.''

As the state has changed from the Missouri Mastery and Achievement Test to the current MAP test, Ricker said, "The rules have changed annually. We're comparing different kids on an annual basis. That's not any excuse, that's a reality. Now with testing from three through eight, we'll be able to find and identify groups of kids every year using Tungsten benchmarks on a monthly basis and be able to work student by student. The way the system's been set up for us and the way we've set our testing program, we've had to wait until the end of the year to try to react to what we should be reacting to in September and October ... We'd like to do better. We want to do better. We want to compare with those school districts. We want to compare with those school districts in all categories and when I say all categories it talks about resources as well.

"We'll be showing the board and others and our public the comparison on resources that what I think doesn't show anything other than data. It's not just to provide any excuse. It's not to provide any reason for anything other than if we're going to compete, we need to compete on a level playing field ...,'' the superintendent said.

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