Missouri Assessment Program test results to be made public today will show where Columbia Public Schools fell short on meeting federally mandated targets.
Earlier this week, Columbia was placed on a list of districts “needing improvement” alongside 167 other districts in the state.
Columbia schools received the designation after failing to meet Adequate Yearly Progress — the percentage of students required to score proficient or advanced — for two consecutive years in communication arts for special-education students. This year, 18.5 percent of special-education students in the district scored proficient or advanced on the exam — short of the 42.9 percent target proficiency in communication arts.
Meeting these targets is mandated under the federal No Child Left Behind Act; however, states set their own proficiency targets. Yearly progress goals increase each year under the federal law. The act aims to have 100 percent of public-school students achieve proficiency in communication arts and mathematics by 2014.
Superintendent Phyllis Chase said it’s discouraging to be designated as “needing improvement” when the district still remains accredited with distinction in the state.
“The two things can’t exist at the same time, can they? Yes, they can,” Chase told faculty at Russell Boulevard Elementary School on Thursday during a scheduled visit.
Other key results of the MAP data include:
• Columbia students on average still fared better than their peers across the state in both subject areas at all grade levels. On average, 49.9 percent of Columbia students scored proficient or advanced on the mathematics portion of the test. That number is compared to 44.8 percent of students statewide reaching the same achievement levels. In communication arts, scores showed 50.8 percent of Columbia students performed at the proficient or advanced level, while 44.3 percent of students statewide performed at those levels.
• Parkade Elementary School was placed on a list of schools “needing improvement.” The school did not meet the target for mathematics for African-American students, with 9.4 percent scoring in the proficient or advanced level — below the target of 35.8 percent. The school also failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress for those receiving free or reduced lunches, with 13.4 percent meeting the proficiency requirement. This was the second year in a row the school was unable to meet these marks.
• Field Elementary School improved enough to achieve Adequate Yearly Progress standards this year. The school faced sanctions last year after falling short of progress goals but was able to improve enough this year to avoid further sanctions.
• Overall, the district fell short of meeting Adequate Yearly Progress in nine of 16 subgroups in communication arts and mathematics. Subgroups consist of racial and ethnic groups, special-education students, students who qualify for free and reduced lunch and students who speak limited English.
In mathematics, the district did not meet the benchmark of 35.8 percent proficiency for African-American students, students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, special-education students, and students who speak limited English. The district also did not meet the benchmark of 42.9 percent proficiency in communication arts for African-American students, Hispanic students, students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, special-education students and students who speak limited English.
Officials with the NAACP in Columbia and Jefferson City, Centro Latino, and PRIDE could not be reached Thursday for comment.
Although the district failed to reach the benchmark in these nine areas, some say it should not be a great concern.
“I think parents and other patrons of the school district need to take these results with a grain of salt,” said Brent Ghan, spokesman for the Missouri School Boards Association. “I think there are serious problems with the accountability measures as those are structured right now under No Child Left Behind. Buildings and districts are painted with a very broad brush of needing improvement when there might be a very specific area where they’re not achieving under Adequate Yearly Progress.”
Columbia schools have 32 subgroups for which to be accountable, and Chase said the size and diversity of the district make it more difficult to meet progress standards in all areas.
“It puts a greater burden of proof on Columbia Public Schools,” Chase said. “But it’s not something we’re shying away from.”
She said Columbia cannot be compared with smaller surrounding districts because those districts have very few subgroups to be accountable for.
Sometimes, subgroups overlap as well, which can complicate test results, said DeeAnn Aull, programs and public relations director with the Missouri National Education Association in Jefferson City.
“A single student might fall in several subgroups, so a single student who is scoring poorly could impact a district in three different subgroups,” Aull said. “Certainly, I know every district is looking seriously at subgroups where they’re not doing well, but more specifically they’re looking at specific students and how to help those students.”
The way the test is set up, if any one subgroup falls below standards, the entire school or district is designated as “needing improvement.”
“We’re in continuous improvement mode,” Chase said. She said each school and its staff will look at the data to determine what improvements will be made this coming year.
“That answer best comes from each school, each cohort and each teacher in terms of what comes next,” Chase said.