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Latest testing data show K-12 student performance dropped dramatically across Missouri

ANNELISE HANSHAW, Missouri Independent

Missouri students underperformed across the board in the latest round of standardized tests released Tuesday, with 112 districts and charter schools performing low enough to be considered provisionally accredited.

But the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) said it will not downgrade any districts this year because it is the first of a new testing program.

DESE on Tuesday afternoon released the results of its public school districts and charter schools’ annual performance report, showing that student performance has fallen dramatically from pre-pandemic reports.

At the time of the last full report in 2018, three districts were provisionally accredited and three were not. All were confined to the state’s urban core in Kansas City and St. Louis.

Tentatively accredited school districts are subject to state oversight, and non-accredited districts are in some cases taken over by the state.

Now schools that fall below fully accredited status stretch across the state.

DESE officials stressed that the results released Tuesday point to a COVID-induced learning loss and a more rigorous testing regime introduced for the first time this year.

The rubric combines standardized test scores, attendance rates, access to advanced courses, graduation rates and more. The previous version of the School Improvement Plan, the program focuses on students’ academic growth and the creation of a continuous school improvement plan.

“I would say the biggest change in creating a more rigorous system is that districts and schools are held accountable for growth as well as status. So there is pressure not only to get a high score on their overall competency at this point, but also to ensure that the individual student is growing at the expected rate,” Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven told reporters.

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State law states that the first year after changes to the improvement program must be a “pilot year” that is not used to downgrade a public school district’s accreditation or conduct teacher evaluation. DESE wants to collect data for three years before using scores to lower accreditation, Mallory McGowin, DESE’s chief communications officer, said in an email.

Results from standardized tests — the Missouri Assessment Program, or MAP — show which districts may be struggling with learning loss.

The 2018 MAP evaluated districts on a 40-point scale: 16 points for district performance in math, 16 points for English/language arts results, and 8 points for social studies.

The 2022 MAP scores are on a 32-point scale: 12 for Math, 12 for English/Language Arts, four for Social Studies, and four for Science.

In 2018, Missouri districts scored an average of 90% of the available points on the DESE scale, compared to 65% in 2022.

The state’s largest district, Springfield R-XII School District, fell from 93% to 63% on the DESE scale between 2018 and 2022.

The Independence 30 school district scored a perfect 100% in 2018 but fell to 53% in 2022.

Rolla 31 School District earned 94% in the 2018 MAP, but dropped to 66% in 2022 and received only half the possible credit in math.

Other districts’ scores remained high, and some improved their MAP performance. The third largest district in the state, the Rockwood R-VI School District scored 97% of the possible points in 2018 and 100% in 2022.

Fort Zumwalt R-II School District earned 100% in both 2018 and 2022.

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McGowin told The Independent that 2022 results should be viewed as a baseline and expects growth.

“Expectations for student achievement remain high, and we anticipate districts and charter schools will work with their communities to meet them,” she said.

Vandeven put pressure on the state to also contribute to academic success.

“It will take collective energy and commitment from across the state to improve the teaching profession,” she said.

She pointed to DESE’s Blue Ribbon Commission, a group that has set legislative goals, including raising the minimum salary for teachers to $38,000.

“The single most important school-level factor affecting student success is an effective teacher,” Vandeven said.

“We’re facing a nationwide teacher shortage,” she continued. “Although we do not collect information on the number of substitute teachers working in schools on a daily basis due to the shortage of teachers, we feel that our dependence on substitutions is at an all-time high.”

She said the department issued 18,300 replacement certificates in 2022, compared to the previous three-year average of 12,160.

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