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Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

State tests pose challenge

Monday, September 24, 2001

Local students improving but often below state averages

SIKESTON - Although Missouri students are improving on the Missouri Assessment Program test, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education says about two-thirds are still not where they need to be.

The problem seems to focus on the basics, such as reading, math, science and social studies. Most students scored below their grade level in all five subjects of the standardized tests given under the MAP, reports the state department.

And locally, Sikeston Public Schools officials admit their students could do better. In reading, the number of seventh-graders in the satisfactory category went from 25 percent in 2000 to 43.2 percent in 2001. Students considered doing unsatisfactory in reading reached 116 in 2001, although that's lower than the 146 students reported in 2000.

Third graders in the R-6 School District doing satisfactory work in reading was at 43.9 percent in 2001, compared to 37.8 the previous year.

But they're not alone. Fewer third- and seventh-grade students met state reading standards last school year, according to information released this week by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Among seventh graders, the number of proficient readers fell to 32.6 percent in 2001 from 33.9 percent the previous year.

The reading scores, which play an important role in whether a school is accredited by the state, were derived from the communication arts portion of the tests administered to about 70,000 students in Missouri's 524 school districts.

The MAP test scores are placed in five categories or quintiles, beginning with advanced, which school officials described as hard to get to and make up only a small percentage of students. This is followed by proficient, nearing proficiency, progressing and step one. Sikeston Public Schools' goal is for Sikeston students to be placed in the top three quintiles and for fewer students in the bottom two.

"We are at 71.8 percent in third grade reading and I think it's kind of an interesting number," said Kathy Boldrey, director of curriculum and assessment for Sikeston Public Schools. "They're looking at how many kids score satisfactory or above and although all of our kids aren't scoring proficient and above, the majority of our kids are doing satisfactory work and above. That's grade level and above. The state average this year is 71.7 percent so we're right on it.

"That's a lot to be proud of. Do we have a lot of work ahead of us? You bet, because we don't want to be satisfied with 71 percent of our students being satisfactory. But look where we've come from in 1998, 57.5 percent."

The seventh grade's reading score at Sikeston Public Schools is recorded at 56.9 percent at satisfactory and above, compared to 64.4 percent in the state. The previous year's score was 52.6 percent in Sikeston and 59 percent in the state.

In the top three quintiles, in math, fourth graders at Sikeston schools saw a 10 percent increase at 82 percent and a one percent increase in eighth grade at 43 percent. There was no change at the tenth-grade level.

Third graders, however, scored a 74 percent in science, a 12 percent decrease; seventh graders scored 33 percent, for a 10 percent decrease; and 10th graders saw 38 percent, for a 2 percent decrease.

"It's not quite where we want it and I think the score can be attributed to several things. Some students feel they do not have a stake in the test. They don't realize this test impacts our communities, our schools and our students. What we can do to make them want to do well on the test is something we're looking at now."

Reports say 82 percent of Sikeston Schools' fourth graders are scoring in the top three quintiles in math at Sikeston Schools at 82 percent, a 10 percent increase. In the eighth grade, 43 percent of the students are scoring in the top three quintiles for a 1 percent increase and 7 percent of the 10th grader are scoring in the top three quintiles for a 1 percent increase.

Also, 74 percent of Sikeston's third graders are scoring in the top three quintiles in science. "And that's exciting," Boldrey said. "I will be the first to say we have a lot of improving to do, we always will. But our kids are doing quite well overall."

In the bottom two quintiles for MAP 2000-20001, there is an 8 percent decrease for 18 percent.

Sikeston participated in a pilot of the MAP test in 1997. The math section was added in 1998, followed by communication arts and science in 1999. In 2000, social science was added. Fine arts was to have been added this year but was postponed due to budget cuts at the state level.

While some school districts continue to struggle to raise overall student performance on the state's MAP tests, many individual buildings are showing progress, including some of southeast Missouri's own.

Several area schools rate in the Top 10 of the "most improved" schools. This was based on the percent of students moving up from Step 1 and progressing levels on the MAP communication arts, math and science assessments 1999-2000.

Among them are Southeast Elementary School in Sikeston, Thomas W. Kelly High School in Benton, Warren E. Hearnes Elementary in Charleston, Bloomfield High School, Caruthersville High School, Chaffee Elementary, Malden High School, Scott City High School and Scott City Middle School.

"Our goal is to be the best in the state, our ultimate goal is student achievement," Boldrey said. "We've worked hard at realigning our curriculum this year and to do that we look at ACT, we look at MAP and we look at what we feel our students in Sikeston need to know to be successful after graduating from SPS whether they choose to attend college, a technical school or join the work force. The MAP test is a difficult test. It includes multiple choice questions, constructive responses, which are like short answer and performance events.

Performance events are multiple-step questions that require knowledge of the subject, using that knowledge to solve a problem and communicate how the problem is solved.

"But you want to have difficult tests, you want everyone to rise to the cause. Nothing is learned from easy challenges. We're here to increase student achievement and we can't do it if we're not faced with challenges."

Boldrey urged parents and guardians to familiarize themselves with the MAP test to give them a better understanding of the difficulty involved. One opportunity will be during an informational meeting Oct. 4 at the Sikeston High School Field House Classroom.

Kindergarten through fifth grade parents and guardians will meet from 5-5:30 p.m. and those of students in grades 6-12 will meet from 6:30-7 p.m.