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Majority of Columbia public schools fall short of state progress standards

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 8:53 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 12, 2009
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COLUMBIA — Four of Columbia’s 28 public schools made adequate yearly progress in 2009 and two face corrective action, according to preliminary data released this week by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Midway Heights, Mill Creek, Ridgeway and Two Mile Prairie elementary schools are the only schools in the district to meet Missouri’s progress standard. Meanwhile, Field and Parkade elementary schools face tougher regulations for again not making adequate progress.

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Last year, Midway Heights and Ridgeway, along with New Haven Elementary School, were the only three in the district to meet adequate yearly progress.

Chief Academic Officer Sally Beth Lyon said the district is not satisfied with its annual results.

"We really expect more of ourselves. We would like to see a greater increase (in progress) every year, and there are some grade levels at which we’ve seen a decline," she said. "At most grade levels, we are still performing above the state, but that’s not the case everywhere, so that’s not good enough.”

The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to demonstrate that students are making adequate yearly progress. This includes showing an increasing percentage of students testing proficient or above in communication arts and math.

In 2009, 59.2 percent of Missouri students were expected to be proficient or above in communication arts and 54.1 percent proficient or above in math. By 2014, all students — in Missouri and nationwide — must be proficient or above in those subject areas.

Graduation and attendance rates, as well as proficiency among subgroups of students, are also required to meet the progress standard.

Schools that do not meet adequate yearly progress for two or more consecutive years face a range of consequences, depending on whether they receive Title I federal funding and what school improvement level they are on.

Because Field and Parkade again did not meet standards, they are the first Columbia schools to face a mandate of corrective action as defined by the state. “Corrective action basically means we roll up our sleeves, take a look at our school improvement plan and say, ‘What should we be doing differently to try to get different results?’ ” Lyon said.

The total percentage of Field students proficient or above in communication arts was 25.3 percent, with 13.1 percent proficient or above in math.

At Parkade, the total percentage of students proficient or above in communication arts was 31.1 percent, with 28 percent proficient or above in math.

According to the state, Title I schools in Level 3 corrective action must provide parents with the option to move their children to another school in better standing and provide supplemental services for children that stay. Title I schools are those in which 40 percent of students are eligible for free and reduced-cost lunch. Both Field and Parkade receive Title I funding.

The schools must also take corrective actions such as implementing a new curriculum, working with outside consultants, extending the school year or day and replacing staff.

Lyon said that although students will leave Field next January to move into the new Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary School, Field will not be given a clean slate. The school will still be accountable for past performance and will be given federal money to improve test scores for next year. It has not yet been determined how much.

Lyon said last year’s Title I schools that did not meet adequate yearly progress received an additional $40,000 to spend over two years.

Statewide, 790 of 2,210 schools — or 35.7 percent — met adequate yearly progress in 2009. In communications arts, 51.2 percent of students were proficient compared to 45.7 last year. In math, 47.6 percent were proficient compared to 46.7 last year.

As a district, Columbia Public Schools failed to meet adequate yearly progress this year. The total percentage of students proficient or above in communication arts was 54.5 percent, with 48.3 percent in math.

Lyon said that overall, the district is not satisfied with its performance on the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) tests, which determine student proficiency in grades three through eight, and officials will continue to work to improve them for next year.

“Dr. (Chris) Belcher is going to challenge the staff and principals to evaluate programs, to look at the way we are investing our resources, to really look under every rock,” Lyon said of the new superintendent.

The district’s math curriculum will change starting this year, and Lyon said she thinks the new material will help improve student scores on MAP tests. School Board member Ines Segert said she agrees and is happy to see the curriculum change, but she does not think any improvement will be seen in the first year. 

2009 also marked the first year that high school students were given end-of-course exams instead of MAP tests. The exams focus only on one subject, English II or Algebra I, as opposed to the MAP tests that cover a wide variety of topics.

Lyon said one criticism of the MAP tests at the high school level was that students did not put forth their best effort because the tests did not count toward their grade. The end-of-course exams count as 5 percent of a student’s final grade.

She said teachers and principals at every school work with kids who need additional help through “relentless, direct teaching.” To improve MAP scores, "there’s no district program or magic wand. It’s good instruction,” she said.

Lyon said she supports the intent of the No Child Left Behind Act but does not necessarily agree it is a good measure of student learning.

“There are lots of other measures that would say we’re better than this, such as graduation rates, ACT and other standardized test scores,” Lyon said.

The School District is planning a news conference at 8 a.m., Wednesday, to further discuss this year's adequate yearly progress results.

Asked whether she thinks the district will be 100 percent proficient by 2014, Lyon smiled. "We're sure going to try."

Missourian reporter Liz Lucas contributed to this article.


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