JOPLIN, Mo. —
Missouri students, including those in Southwest Missouri, showed mixed results on the most recent standardized achievement tests.
Statewide data from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education show the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced on the Missouri Assessment Program tests in math declined in 2013, but remained steady in communication arts and improved in science.
State Board of Education Chairman Peter Herschend said the scores show that Missouri schools are not making as much progress as he would like.
MAP tests are given annually at all Missouri public schools for students in grades three through 12. Communication arts, math and science assessments are given to students through grade eight, while required end-of-course exams for high school students include English, algebra, biology and government.
The test scores are among the measures used to develop Annual Performance Reports, which determine school districts’ accreditation. The state department has said no changes in accreditation classifications are expected this year.
Test scores in Joplin were mixed, particularly at the high school level, with scores increasing from those of the previous year in the biology and English tests and decreasing slightly in the algebra and government tests.
While scores declined at the elementary school grade levels in math and remained flat in English, notable gains were posted primarily in the science tests, and across the middle school grade levels in English and math.
“We’re really pleased overall,” said Assistant Superintendent Angie Besendorfer. “When you look at the district as a whole, we see gains. In any given year, you’re going to have your ups and downs.”
She said the district looks at information beyond the surface MAP scores, trying to determine whether students improve from basic to proficient to advanced from year to year or whether the percentage of students scoring “below basic” on the tests is decreasing.
Besendorfer said the MAP test isn’t the only measure used by Joplin administrators to measure student success. The district also looks at high school students’ employability scores, a reading assessment given by Scholastic at the elementary and middle school levels, scores on college-entrance exams, and internal writing assessments, she said.
“There are lots of different ways to determine the success of a school district, and this is one picture,” she said of the MAP results.
Results also were mixed in most area districts, with the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced on the tests increasing for some grade levels and subjects but decreasing for others.
The up-and-down pattern frequently seen from year to year is not necessarily cause for concern, said Deborah Swarens, assistant superintendent for instruction in Carthage.
“The ups and the downs, I believe, are because you’re testing different sets of kids” from year to year, she said. “What I want to see is the third-graders when they took the communication arts test, I want to see that as fourth-graders they made improvements, and then when they’re fifth-graders they made improvements. It’s all about growth.”
Swarens said the trends suggest that Carthage students are generally scoring better on the English and math tests than on the science and social studies tests because the district has previously focused heavily on the English and math content areas.
“Where our data is pointing is that we need to take a look at what’s going on in science and social studies because those are not strong points for us as a district,” she said. “But I feel like the fact that we are spending more time at the elementary grades reading informational texts and incorporating science texts and social studies-type content in the reading block is going to help get our students more exposure to that information and that content.”
It was almost the reverse situation in Carl Junction, where students generally performed well this year in science and social studies and had fluctuating scores in English and math, said Kathy Tackett, assistant superintendent.
“In English language arts and math, we are holding our own,” she said. “Those are areas that we could certainly work on and continue to do better.”
Glenda Condict, assistant superintendent of curriculum in Neosho, said the MAP tests are beginning to reflect the new Common Core State Standards, which outline the knowledge and skills each student should possess at the end of each grade to ensure that students are college- and career-ready upon graduation from high school.
Most districts, including Neosho, already have begun implementing the standards into their curriculum and using those standards as a guide to teach the material tested by the MAP exams, she said.
“Some of this year’s MAP test included Common Core State Standard questions, so we initiated curriculum to be more rigorous,” she said. “That transition in curriculum includes a transition for teacher pedagogy and how they teach and also a transition into learner expectations — not just higher expectations, but a deeper rigor into the standards.”
Webb City officials were “not surprised” by their 2013 scores, which were mixed in English and math and up slightly in science and social studies, said Trey Moeller, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. He said the scores reflect the ongoing transition toward the Common Core standards.
“When we consider the degree of changes that are taking place in our communication arts and math programs, to have a relatively flat score is not overly alarming at this point,” Moeller said. “Our administrators, our teachers are already working on how to improve.”
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS contributed to this report.
THE 2013 MAP TEST RESULTS for districts and schools are to be released to the public today by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education at dese.mo.gov. People may go to joplinglobe.com for specific data on several Southwest Missouri school districts.