Test scores may cost school district

An initial review shows that Columbia Public Schools failed to meet a federal target, which could lead to penalties.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:56 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The state has given a preliminary designation of “needing improvement” to the Columbia Public School District after an initial review showed the district failed to show progress for special-education students in communication arts.

Parkade Elementary School also received a preliminary designation of “needing improvement,” according to a district statement released Monday.

If the results are finalized, it would be the second year that federally mandated targets for improvement have not been met by the district and Parkade Elementary School.

The review of test results by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The department will review the data on which the designations are based and will give a final designation on Oct. 1. Schools and districts that consistently fail to meet federal targets face penalties, including losing state funding.

The designations are based on 2006 and preliminary 2007 Missouri Assessment Program results, which indicated that adequate yearly progress was not met by certain student demographic groups in the district. The results include breakdowns of scores within nine subgroups based on ethnicity and special needs.

In 2006, the district did not meet federal targets for special-education students in communication arts, with 22.4 percent of students receiving a proficient or advanced level, compared with the 34.7 percent annual proficiency target.

Parkade also missed its target in 2006 for mathematics for African-American students, with 3.7 percent scoring in the proficient or advanced level — below the target of 26.6 percent. It also failed to make adequate yearly progress for those receiving free or reduced lunches, with 6.1 percent scoring in the proficient or advanced level.

Federal law requires the district to notify parents of the designation, which it will do by letter. The district, which has 30 schools and more than 16,000 students, must also create a plan detailing how it will meet federal goals for the groups that failed.

This overall plan “will be a compilation of many plans already in place,” said Sally Beth Lyon, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. These plans include “Great Expectations,” an internal accountability system implemented in 2006, and “Assessment For Learning,” which helps teachers use assessments to enact beneficial teaching strategies. The district’s Comprehensive School Improvement Plan is also up for revision this year.

The state will release more data from the 2007 MAP results later this week, which could also have an impact on this designation.

If the “needing improvement” designation is finalized, the district must again notify parents. This time, however, it must offer them the choice to send their child to another school in the district, and if so pay for transportation to the new school for the first year.

Lyon said such a result would not have a huge impact on the district, which already allows students to choose which school to attend.

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