Let’s throw out some well-deserved recognition for this year’s state testing results at Missouri public schools.
Students, teachers and administrators, you may sit down. This round of applause is reserved for any parent without a doctorate who is able to decipher the muddled confusion that is the Annual Performance Report from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
State education officials release a report every year to measure academic achievement, high school readiness, college readiness, attendance and graduate rates. This should provide a glimpse of student performance.
It’s quite possible that these results are beneficial from the educator’s perspective, with a focus on student data rather than total points. We agree that there’s something unfair in saying that your school, based on a week or so of testing, seems to be a C+ school.
At the same time, most parents would not be pleased to see a student grade card that looks like DESE’s eight-page report for the school district. We’re not talking about the results, we’re talking about color-coded bar graphs that show St. Joseph on the “floor” regarding achievement gains in language arts and math.
SJSD students achieved yellow bar status, a little left of the state average triangle, in the section for students achieving at high levels. The legend shows that this means the district is approaching status expectations. For the bar associated with improvements over prior years, we were peach colored — the floor, again — with a -4.7 in language arts and a -2.5 in math. Our score in math appeared to be 292.5.
Maybe someone should just ask the Magic 8-Ball.
Other categories were easier to understand, with the report showing that 66 percent of graduates were college and career ready, while the attendance rate was 89.2 percent and the four-year graduation rate was 84.8 percent.
St. Joseph’s top school administrators did their best to explain the state’s numbers and put them into perspective. Dr. Marlie Williams, assistant superintendent of academic services, said in a news release that the closing of elementary schools and changes to secondary schedules had an impact on results.
Superintendent Dr. Doug Van Zyl said he understands there are areas for improvement, but he cautioned that the APR is just one measure of student achievement.
Fair enough. We understand that teachers lack a magic wand and that some of the results reflect what happens at home as much as at school.
Our quibble is not with the results on the local level as much as the presentation from the state. If the goal was to provide information that is relevant and accessible, then we would give DESE a green bar.
What does that mean? It’s anyone’s guess.