Columbia Public Schools students scored better than national averages on four standardized tests taken during the 2003-04 school year.
Sally Lyon, the district’s director of research and assessment, presented the results to school board members at a morning work session Thursday.
But board members and other district officials did have some concerns with the district’s Missouri Assessment Program test results, which show slow improvement but less impressive scores than the results from other tests.
The MAP test is used to assess the state’s compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
In addition to the federal guidelines, the district sets its own achievement goals for standardized test results. Among these goals was to ensure that results on nationally standardized tests would be at or above the national average.
Of the eighth-grade students who took the Explore test, a multiple choice test that covers English, math, reading and science, 77 percent had a composite score higher than the national average.
Some 78 percent of 10th-graders were also above the national average on the Plan test, which is used as an ACT prediction score. Of those students who took the ACT, the average score was 23.6 and 71 percent had composite scores above the national average.
Another of the district’s goals was for all third-graders to be able to read at grade level. In 2004, 77 percent of third-graders in Columbia schools met that goal.
But the district also wanted to increase the number of students who scored proficient and advanced on the MAP test. And although some progress has been made in three years, the new test results suggest there is still room for improvement.
Only 46 percent of fourth-graders, 20 percent of eighth-graders and 27 percent of 10th-graders scored proficient or advanced on the math portion of the MAP test. On the MAP communication arts test, 43 percent of third-graders scored proficient or advanced.
Lyon said the difference in scores could be attributed to the difference in scoring methods for reading versus communication arts.
Reading is scored on three levels, but communication arts — which includes essay writing and questions about language and reading — has five levels.
“The educators who designed this test clearly set a very rigorous and challenging bar,” Lyon said. “We need to continue to explore when things are introduced, when they are taught. Every year, the district gets better and better aligned with what is on the assessment. We continue to work toward teaching what is tested and to ensure what is tested is what is valuable.”
Superintendent Phyllis Chase said the difference in achievement on the MAP and national tests could cause some confusion.
“I think the fact that state MAP scores aren’t always in sync with national scores can make parents and patrons confused,” Chase said. “Both scores are true and accurate but are measured on different standards.”
The district received high marks overall in the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s annual yearly performance report.
In issuing the report, the state examines MAP scores, attendance, dropout rates and ACT scores, among other criteria.
The district was accredited with distinction for success in 11 of 12 performance indicators.
“Overall, I’m ecstatic and very pleased with the growth we’re experiencing,” Chase said.