Columbia schools given top honor

Tuesday, November 30, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:53 p.m. CDT, Sunday, May 25, 2008

High marks for MAP scores, ACT scores and attendance helped the Columbia Public School District earn its place on a list of 158 districts in the state that earned the Distinction in Performance honor.

The district was recognized by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on Monday for its efforts to improve academic achievement among its students.

The award was no surprise for Cheryl Cozette, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, but rather a reminder of the work the school district has been doing to meet the needs of its students.

“We’re happy that the state of Missouri is recognizing our accomplishments,” Cozette said. But the award is not going to change the district’s focus in improving student achievement, she said.

As part of an ongoing program to improve the education offered to Columbia students, district officials monitor student achievement by looking at test scores and require each school to have a school-improvement plan, she said. Teachers are divided into teams or by grade level to plan their lessons based on the results.

All 524 districts in the state are reviewed. The honor is awarded to school districts that receive 91 out of a possible 100 points on the state’s yearly performance report, which take into account 12 different categories, including test scores. The points are awarded based on MAP test scores, ACT scores and attendance and dropout rates. Accreditation requires 66 points.

Columbia schools scored 91, passing 11 out of the 12 categories. Dropout rates were the weakest part of the district’s evaluation. With a 4.4 percent dropout rate, Columbia schools failed to meet the 3 percent dropout rate required get a full 12 points.

The school district has a number of strategies in place to deal with the dropout rates, Cozette said. The district monitors students who are most at risk, works with parents and offers individual literacy plans to struggling elementary and junior high students. For high school students, alternative curricula and support programs are offered to at-risk students, she said.

Cozette said that these intervention programs help lower the number of students that drop out, but it is difficult to see because the percentage is already low.

“It’s difficult to lower it significantly,” Cozette said. “If you lower the number of students who are dropping out, it doesn’t necessarily impact the percentage in a particular way.”

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