After receiving its annual performance report from the state a year ago, the Joplin School District set out to improve its ratings in academic achievement and attendance. In this year's assessment, the district nearly aced those areas.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education this week released annual performance report and Missouri Assessment Program score data for every public school district in the state, and Joplin was one point away from perfect marks in the three academic categories examined — English language arts, mathematics and social studies — as well as attendance.
Missouri's annual performance report examines school districts' achievement in various academic subjects, attendance, career and college readiness, graduation rate and other factors. It grades each category on a points scale, then presents a final, overall score as a percentage of available points earned.
Statewide data, as well as that for individual school districts and even specific schools that go into a district's scores, can be accessed online at https://apps.dese.mo.gov/MCDS/home.aspx.
Joplin's 2018 report shows that the district received 100 percent of the points that were available in English, social studies and attendance, and 15 out of a possible 16 points in mathematics.
"The exciting thing is, first of all, we’re fully accredited," said Stephen Gilbreth, assistant superintendent of learning services. "Second of all, we showed growth in academics and received nearly all of our points — (due to) no small effort on part of teachers and principals to get in, get after it and make sure we’re getting kids here every day and giving them the education they need to show growth and be successful."
Joplin's overall score was 85.8 percent, up from 83.6 percent the previous year. Gilbreth said an area where the district needs to improve is in the number of students taking advanced placement or dual credit courses. Joplin received six out of a possible 10 points in that category. Gilbreth said steps are being taken to ensure that students are aware of the availability of such courses and to encourage them to consider advanced academics as early as possible.
"It’s really making people, parents and students, aware early on, what does it take to do this?" he said. "What does it take to earn those credits, to earn those honors? To even understand, ‘Hey, you can get dual credit if you take dual credit classes. You’re not only earning high school credit, you’re earning college credit'? What kind of things do we need to help you put in place to make sure mom and dad know about this, and mom and dad and student have a plan, and mom, dad and school have a plan?"
While most schools in the Joplin area fared well in their 2018 reports, the Carl Junction School District posted the best mark among a group that includes Joplin, Webb City, Carthage and Neosho. Carl Junction's overall score was 97.8 percent, a jump from its 92.9 percent mark the previous year.
Carl Junction had perfect scores in academics, standardized testing, advanced courses and postsecondary placement.
"We earned those … points by academic achievement along with student growth," said Kathy Tackett, assistant superintendent. "And I will tell you that is exciting for us because we believe that growing students academically is what we’re about. Not necessarily taking one test at the end of the year. And it shows that our students did grow, which is something that we continually focus on and work on throughout the year."
The Webb City School District also had a strong showing, earning 96.6 percent of points possible, virtually identical to last year's 96.4 percent mark. The district's academics were nearly perfect; math was the only subject in which it did not receive 100 percent. Webb City earned 14.7 out of 16 points in math.
The district received a 7.5 out of 10 in postsecondary placement.
Carthage's overall score came in closer to Joplin's than the other districts in the area. The district earned 87.5 percent of points available. Academics hurt the district's overall number as it earned 29 out of 40 points. In English language arts in particular, Carthage scored 9 out of 16.
The district posted perfect scores in various standardized tests, advanced coursework postsecondary placement, graduation and attendance.
Neosho also performed well in academics and earned an overall score of 90.2 percent. Neosho earned all but 3.3 points possible in academics, 100 percent of points in standardized tests and attendance and graduation. The district received 6 and 7.5 points out of 10 in advanced coursework and postsecondary placement, respectively.
A number of other Southwest Missouri school districts outside the Joplin area performed well on their annual performance reports. Pierce City earned 100 percent as its overall rating. First-year Superintendent Kelly Alumbaugh was quick to credit the district staff for the accomplishment.
"I’m just happy to be a part of it," she said. "But I know our teachers work hard and our administrators work hard, and they deserve all that credit for putting all that work in."
Lamar posted a 99.5 percent overall score. The only mark that wasn't perfect was in postsecondary placement, where the district earned 9.5 out of 10 points.