MOREHOUSE -- A misinterpretation by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has made one Sikeston R-6 school very happy.
In August, Morehouse Elementary was placed on the state's preliminary list of schools failing to make adequate yearly progress (AYP), or the state's goals, in the free and reduced lunch subgroup of the Missouri Assessment Program test.
But thanks to the Safe Harbor Provision, school officials learned from DESE Thursday they actually met AYP in the free and reduced subgroup.
"When this first came down, we thought we made AYP under Safe Harbor, but then we were told by DESE it could only be counted if we raised scores 10 percent above the proficient levels," recalled Sikeston R-6 curriculum director Dr. Stephanie Reddick.
Although Morehouse's free and reduced lunch group didn't increase its scores by 10 percent in the top two levels of the test compared to the previous year's scores, it did decrease its scores by 10 percent in the bottom two scoring levels, which is why Reddick thought the school met AYP -- it showed signs of improvement, she said.
"DESE told us it couldn't be counted in the bottom two levels, and then they came back and said they had misinterpreted it (Safe Harbor)," Reddick explained.
Under the Safe Harbor Provision, a school can steadily decrease in the bottom two levels and always make AYP -- even if it failed to meet the goal of increasing test scores, Reddick explained, adding because it's still closing the gap and improving student achievement.
Since AYP began, DESE has allowed school districts to correct any mistakes that may have been made in coding of demographics, which includes the free and reduced lunch subgroup. So Sikeston R-6 schools made corrections where needed and sent them back to DESE for review.
The corrections didn't impact Morehouse's scores, but once the review was sent back to DESE, it realized it wasn't giving the school credit for it's improvement in scores, Reddick said. The school's free and reduced lunch group still scored 13.3 percent at the proficient and advanced levels on the communication arts portion compared to last year's 13.0 percent. The state's goal was 20.4 percent. Morehouse Elementary Principal Jeff Williams said it didn't take him very long to share the information with the staff over the school's intercom Thursday morning.
"Finding out this recent information just reinforces the dedication and hard work our staff puts in for the MAP," Williams said. "We're going to celebrate -- We don't know how, yet, but there was a lot of cheering when I made the announcement."
When school officials were notified in August about not making AYP, the district had to follow DESE's requirements for schools deemed as needing improvement. Parents of this year's fourth graders at Morehouse were sent a letter explaining the situation and given a choice of transferring their children to another elementary school in the district.
"We had to go through that process and parents asked a lot of questions. Overall, the response from parents was really supportive. The parents of community have been really supportive through the last two or three months, but I think our parents will be real excited."
Parents of Morehouse Elementary students wanted to be part of the solution, Reddick said, adding there's was only one request for a transfer. Now parents will be notified again of the change.
Although he's excited about the school making AYP, Williams said it really doesn't change anything.
"Yeah, there was a process we were going through, and there was going to be a plan developed that DESE requires," Williams said. "But at the same time, we're not going to change a lot, and we're still going to do some of the strategies we think will help our students, and we'll continue with programs like tutoring, have more parental involvement, and utilize some of the strategies to help improve MAP scores."
Learning they made AYP also relieves a lot of pressure for the Morehouse staff since they were the only school in the district believed not to make AYP, Reddick pointed out. "It's a relief not to be on it (needs improvement list), but we can't let up," Reddick said.
"Out of this, we had some good ideas developed, and we're going to use those and push forward because as we all know, the AYP won't drop," Williams said. "It will keep going up and up, and we'll just keep doing the best we can."