The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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August 30, 2013

Will your school make the grade? Local districts rated under new school accountability system

JOPLIN, Mo. — School districts are getting their first look at how they have performed during the first year of the recently revised Missouri School Improvement Program, which determines accreditation.

Annual Performance Reports, which summarize how school districts fared in five performance categories, recently were released to the public by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“This year’s APRs allow us to see how schools are performing under the newest cycle of the Missouri School Improvement Program,” said Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro in a statement. “The new system sets the bar higher for education in Missouri and keeps our standards among the strongest in the nation.”

Under the new system, school districts are awarded up to a total of 140 points annually for how well they meet the state’s criteria in each of the performance categories: academic achievement, subgroup achievement, college and career readiness, attendance, and graduation rate.

Those reports for 2013, the first year that the new system has been in place, are available on the department’s website, Performance reports for individual schools are also available.

Nicastro said that 244 districts in the state earned more than 90 percent of the possible points, while another 265 districts earned between 70 percent and 90 percent. All of those districts would be accredited under the new system, she said.

She said 31 districts earned between 50 percent and 69.9 percent of points, which would classify them as provisionally accredited under the new system. The remaining 12 districts earned less than 50 percent, which would classify them as unaccredited, she said. No Joplin-area school districts fell into these categories.

“The Annual Performance Reports for school districts shows that our districts have responded well to the new system,” Nicastro said. “We are certainly proud of our many high-performing districts where students are achieving at high levels and growing in their learning.”

No changes in accreditation classification are expected to be made until 2015, when at least three years of APR data is available for review under the new criteria, Nicastro said. Education officials said a three-year period is needed to show long-term performance trends in districts.

Joplin scored 110 of 140 total points, or 78.6 percent of the total points. The district earned 100 percent of possible points in the graduation-rate category, 80 percent of the points for college and career readiness, and 75 percent of the points for attendance.

The district scored slightly less than 70 percent of possible points for academic achievement and subgroup achievement, which includes minority students, students with limited proficiency in English, students with disabilities, students eligible for free and reduced-price lunches, and students receiving special education services.

Assistant Superintendent Angie Besendorfer said she was overall pleased with the results.

“If the state decided today, Joplin Schools would be fully accredited,” she said.

But the data only show part of the picture and can even present “false negatives or false positives,” she said.

The fact that the district earned 100 percent of possible points for its graduation rate, for example, doesn’t mean that 100 percent of the students graduated.

Rather, it means that the district is on target or shows improvement in the percentage of students it graduates. The district recently announced an 86.8 percent graduation rate for the class of 2013, the highest in years, and administrators have said they will continue to try to bring it up.

“When we read these things, we read much deeper,” Besendorfer said of the annual report. “This is a real quick glance at the district.”

Several local districts received a total number of points that put them into the 90th percentile, which would qualify them for accreditation with distinction if they also were to meet other criteria that has yet to be determined by the state Board of Education. Those districts include Carl Junction, McDonald County, Jasper, Pierce City and Liberal.

The Carl Junction district received high marks in all five performance categories, earning 94.3 percent of total points and 100 percent of possible points for the graduation rate and attendance categories.

Although administrators are “very happy” with their score, they are already beginning to discuss how they can use the data to set districtwide goals to improve student performance and classroom instruction for next year, Superintendent Phil Cook said.

“There are some areas that we did really well in, but we also need to look at the areas where we can improve and take that data and say, ‘We did well in this area — why? What strategies are we using now that maybe we can do differently and improve in that area?’” he said.

Several additional districts, including Neosho, East Newton and Seneca, were just shy of the 90th percentile overall.

Neosho earned strong marks for graduation rate, academic achievement and subgroup achievement but dipped slightly in college and career readiness and attendance.

“For us to earn districtwide 89.3 percent (of total points), we’re very excited,” said Glenda Condict, assistant superintendent of curriculum. “We’re very proud of our teachers and our building administrators for their leadership.”

Report card roundup

(APR total points earned out of 140, percentage of total points earned).

Joplin — 110 points, 78.6 percent.

Webb City — 122.5, 87.5 percent.

Carl Junction — 132, 94.3 percent.

Carthage — 119, 85.0 percent.

Neosho — 125, 89.3 percent.

Lamar — 124, 88.6 percent.

McDonald County — 130, 92.9 percent.

Seneca — 125, 89.3 percent.

East Newton — 125.5, 89.6 percent.

Jasper — 127, 90.7 percent.

Sarcoxie — 105.5, 75.4 percent.

Diamond — 110, 78.6 percent.

Monett — 123.5, 88.2 percent.

Pierce City — 126.5, 90.4 percent.

Liberal — 127, 90.7 percent.

Cassville — 124, 88.6 percent.

Wheaton — 115, 82.1 percent.

Source: Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

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