Local schools strive to meet state targets
SIKESTON -- As the state's standardized achievement test results for school districts were recently released, Sikeston R-6 officials learned one elementary school didn't meet the state's progress goals.
But Sikeston wasn't alone. Other local schools failed to meet the state's annual targets, known as adequate yearly progress, or AYP. This year's AYP goal was 26.6 percent scoring proficient or higher in communication arts and 17.5 percent in mathematics.
"Our scores this year are not as high as we would like them to be in some areas," said Dr. Marisa Bowen, Sikeston R-6 assistant superintendent of curriculum and middle grades.
Nearly 36 percent of the total student population at Sikeston's Lee Hunter Elementary made AYP in communication arts, but because one of its subgroups didn't make AYP, the entire school didn't make AYP.
Of its four subgroups -- school total, white students, black students and free and reduced/free lunch students -- the black student population did not make AYP with a score of 12.1 percent. Last year the subgroup scored 20.5 which met the state goal of 20.4.
"We realize that we need to continue to look at closing the achievement gap between our white student population and our low income and black student populations," Bowen said.
Some of the things Sikeston has done to address the gap are: implement in-
school and after-school tutoring, develop benchmark testing; and hire academic coaches to work with teachers modeling teaching strategies, analyzing data and incorporating technology.
Sikeston has also initiated a mentoring program where volunteer teachers are matched with high-achieving minority students based on the students' third and fourth grade MAP scores. The goal is for the teachers and students to stay connected throughout the school years to offer support, confidence building and resistance to peer pressure.
New Madrid County R-1's Lilbourn Elementary also did not make AYP in communication arts. The school didn't make AYP in its only subgroup, student total, which was 5.7 -- down from 22.2 in 2004.
Each year school districts aim to increase the percentages of students scoring in the top two levels and decrease the percentages of those scoring in the bottom two categories, noted Dr. Cindy Sharp Amick, New Madrid County R-1 director of curriculum and instruction.
"In some areas we achieved that goal, in others we maintained the same scores and in some grades, scores have gone down," Amick said.
To help increase MAP scores, New Madrid County R-1 is also incorporating state standards in its curriculum to be in line with the MAP test this year.
Although Kelly and East Prairie R-2 elementaries made AYP, their scores dipped for the second year in a row.
East Prairie R-2 Superintendent Scott Downing said even though the school made AYP, it will focus more on the MAP test and the curriculum this year.
"I think the test is a good tool. I also think it is used unfairly on judging school districts in how they are doing in the classroom," Downing said.
Scott County Central Elementary's scores dropped in communication arts, but the school also managed to make AYP.
"Looking at the AYP, we did well," said Scott County Central Superintendent Dr. Joel B. Holland. "Overall, we met AYP. At the high school level, we didn't meet the math goals."
Holland noted it's often difficult to get the junior high and high school students motivated to perform well on the MAP test.
"At high school, the key is getting some initiative and ownership where there's a reason to do good on it," Holland said about the MAP test.
And then there's Charleston R-1. For the third consecutive year, Hearnes Elementary failed to make AYP in communication arts, despite its significant increase in scores.
For example, this year in communication arts, the school's "total" subgroup jumped from 14. 9 to 21. 8 scoring in the top two levels. The black students subgroup jumped from 7.7 to 9.5, white students from 23.8 to 37.1 and free/
reduced lunch students from 9.5 to 13.8.
"It's frustrating," Charleston R-1 Superintendent Kevin Miller admitted. "But you have to make it in all the subgroups (that apply) to make AYP."
Beginning in the spring, students in grades three through eight will be tested in communication arts and math, and Miller said test data from year to year will be more effective for districts.
Hearnes Elementary also experienced a dramatic increase in its math scores this year. The school total score rose from 18.8 to 37.9 this year. The black students subgroup went from 5 last year to 30 this year, white students 39 to 48.6 and free and reduced lunch from 13.4 to 30.2.
"In the last two years, we have completely revised all of our curriculum and tied it to the state's grade level expectations," Miller explained.
In addition, Miller attributes the increase in scores to a combination of using better teaching strategies and increasing professional development.
"We're taking baby steps, and you can see constant improvement over the last five years although every year hasn't been as dramatic as this year," Miller said. "Our goal next year is to meet AYP in both communication arts and math."
Statewide 719 schools, or 35 percent, of Missouri's schools didn't make adequate yearly progress this year compared to 22 percent last year.
Only Title I schools can be punished for not meeting the state's benchmarks. Schools, such as Hearnes Elementary, that don't make AYP in the same subject for two consecutive years are designated by the state as needing improvement.
"Our elementary is in school improvement, and classification has been given, but we have made enough progress over the last year to not be penalized," Miller said, adding there are multiple levels of school improvement.
The MAP results released this month are preliminary. Districts have until mid-
October to submit changes to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for APR and MAP student-demographics data.
"Education gets tougher every year, but it's a battle we're going to win," Miller said.
For a detailed look at a specific school district's MAP results or for more information about MAP, visit DESE's Web site at www.dese.mo.gov.