SIKESTON - If it doesn't have a bearing on grade point averages or graduation, then why bother, many students reason.
But Sikeston Public Schools and its Board of Education have a different take on the situation, especially since its students are testing lower than school officials would like to see in some areas according to the results of the Mastery Assessment Program.
Taken in the spring, the MAP test is designed to measure student progress toward meeting the Show-Me Standards, 73 rigorous academic standards adopted by the State Board of Education in 1996.
The results show in science the percentage of advanced third-grade students went from 12.9 in 2000 to 8.5 in 2001 to 6 in 2002 and the percentage of eighth graders in the top two quintiles dropped from 40.7 percent in 2001 to 32.5 in 2002.
There were 29.9 percent of the eighth-grade students nearing proficiency in mathematics in 2001, while in 2002 that number decreased to 24.7.
There were some positive results on the MAP, according to Kathy Boldrey, assistant superintendent of curriculum and middle grades. At the seventh-grade level in science there was 16.9 percent who were nearing proficiency in 2001, compared to 19.1 percent in 2002. In the top two quintiles at the 10th-grade level the percentage was 7.3 in 2001 and 13.4 in 2002.
"All of this information pulled together helps us make decisions throughout the year," Boldrey told Sikeston R-6 board members this week. "The state said they went up in reading and down in math and science, especially in high school, but we did just the opposite. Our science did go up and we are very very pleased, especially with the high school. We made a genuine gain all the way from step 1 going down to the advanced and the top quintile going up."
The problems lies, she said, in convincing students the MAP test is important. "Improving test scores takes a joint effort on the part of teachers, administration, students and parents. We all must promote the test, encourage students to do their best and continue to improve our skills as educators to see that all of our students are successful on the MAP. We, as educators, need to make sure we are using MAP strategies and testing students in the manner they are tested in the MAP test."
Parents will have an opportunity to see sample MAP tests and ask question about the test at a parent meeting Oct. 15 in the Senior High cafeteria. Parents with elementary-age students are invited to attend at 5 p.m. and parents of secondary-age students are invited at 6 p.m.
"The professional development committee works hard to help teachers devise programs to help teachers incorporate MAP skills and strategies in to their daily instruction," commented Julie Hodges, professional development chairperson. "We are in the process of training a group of teachers to be MAP building leaders that can assist teachers with MAP teaching strategies."
Larry Bohannon, assistant superintendent of secondary education and staff development, added as an incentive SPS is giving away over $4,250 worth of scholarships at graduation to students who scored at the advanced level last school year.
Board member Rick Adams expressed concern about that lack of motivation, noting this is the same problem other school districts are facing. "This is how we're rated, this is our performance standards. I've spent several hours going over these numbers and I went to DESE's (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) website and pulled off a lot of information and I'm just going to be blunt. These MAP scores are an indictment on our school board, on us sitting here, because I don't really get the same interpretation of these numbers that we're talking here. When you talk about communication arts went up, I see them down. The proficient students went from 21.5 percent to 14.3 percent and that's going down.
"Sikeston has a school district that we've always been very very proud of and right now if you look at our reading scores, state scores went up, even the inner city St. Louis District scores came up. Our scores went down dramatically on reading scores. This reflects on the school district and we've got to face taxpayers, parents and students. Somewhere, something's not being effective. I don't know what it is and I don't have the answers, but we've got to set some goals and push for some excellence. We can't accept these kinds of scores. We've got some works to do folks."
"My own theory about that is the timing of the test," said Bob Depro, board member and retired teacher. "It's in the spring, these juniors have been tested out with ACT and they don't see the immediate importance of it. They may be scoring 30 on the ACT, but they may be taking this one pretty lightly. So, we've got to do something about the kids in the lower quintile, but we've got to figure out a way to motivate our brightest and best, too."
Sikston Superintendant of Schools Steve Borgsmiller reminded the board the curriculums have been realigned only within the past year a half. "We are just now being able to provide what is being tested on, prior to that there was no sequential nature in what we were teaching based upon what was being tested and to expect a turnaround in that in one year or less is not going to happen, guys. But we're going to do better, we have to do better. We represent our community and the things we have in place and other things that haven't even been thought of yet, we'll allow those to show us some positive affects but it's not going to happen over night.
"We should constantly strive for improvement in our test scores. The administration and staff are working extremely hard toward this common goal. We will continue to make student achievement our priority and to work to see that our students are prepared to be successful after graduation."