Columbia Public School's black students' academic performances fall behind, MAP scores show

Tuesday, August 14, 2012 | 9:27 p.m. CDT; updated 10:28 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 15, 2012
The percent change in the MAP test results from the previous year for third through eighth grade by subject is shown here.

COLUMBIA – Despite efforts to improve academic performance among black students, data from the 2012 Missouri Assessment Program, released Monday, show that Columbia Public Schools have made little to no progress. 

“It’s obviously a challenge,” Jonathan Sessions, a member of the Columbia School Board, said. “I have to be honest. It’s not the growth that I had hoped for.”

Twenty-four percent of black students in the district passed the communication arts portion of the 2012 MAP test, compared to 65 percent of their white peers. In math, 20 percent of black students passed the test with "proficient" or "advanced" scores, compared to 63 percent of white students.

In 2011 the district sponsored a series of “World Cafe” meetings, where community members, parents, teachers and administrators discussed achievement among minority students.

“This is a community issue, and we want to get the community involved,” Sessions said.

The district has also partnered with Columbia College and MU to give middle and high school minority students the chance to spend a week each summer on campus. Sessions hopes these programs “get kids thinking about college.”

“With black students, we just don’t seem to be moving the needle,” Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Chris Belcher said during a news conference on Monday.

Deronne Wilson, director of Columbia’s Boys and Girls Club, also expressed disappointment after learning about the continued disparity. The Boys and Girls Club has provided several programs to improve the academic achievement of students in the surrounding community.

Those programs include Kids on Campus, an initiative that allows local high school students to visit MU. The Boys and Girls Club also holds an hour long study period, every day after school. Students who are struggling academically are also assigned a mentor.

The school district’s Office of Research, Assessment and Accountability produced charts that show the percentage of students in each tested grade level that scored “proficient” or “advanced” on the tests. The charts also showed the percentage of students across the state who scored “proficient” or “advanced” on the same tests.

Students in third through eighth grades, plus tenth and eleventh-graders, took one test in math and one in communication arts. Fifth- and eighth-grade students took an additional test in science. Columbia Public Schools reported the percentage of students who scored “proficient” or “advanced” on a total of 17 tests.

Highlights from the test results include:

  • High-schoolers in the district were either on par with or above the state average in the three tests they took — end of course exams for biology, English 2 and algebra 1. Columbia Public School students outscored the state average on the biology test by 5 percent. 
  • Scores for these same three tests, however, fell from last year. English 2 scores were down 4 percent from last year, algebra 1 scores were down nearly 7 percent and biology scores were down nearly 6 percent. 
  • Scores for the district’s elementary and middle school students were mostly down compared to last year. For 12 of the tests, the district’s scores declined. For the other five tests, scores were up from last year. 
  • From 2008 to 2012, there was nearly a 7 percent increase in students eligible for free and reduced-price lunches. Test scores for these students rose three out of the four years in both math and communication arts.

“We have to remember that this is one snapshot of student performance,” Belcher said. Columbia Public Schools uses a variety of tests to determine how students are performing relative to other students in the state and how much progress they have made individually from year to year.

Missouri, along with 45 other states, is transitioning from individual state tests such as the Missouri Achievement Program to the Common Core Standards. A new test is scheduled for the 2014-15 school year, and Belcher believes it will give the district a better indication of individual student growth from year to year.

Columbia Public Schools doesn't plan to release data that break down science scores by subgroups such as race. They also haven't released data that compare scores among schools within the district or data that show how subgroups within Columbia Public Schools compare to those subgroups statewide.

The data are available on the Missouri Department of Education's website, and the Columbia Missourian will publish its analysis later this week.

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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