This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Besides hearing updated figures on Normandy High School's discipline incidents, the district's school board meeting Wednesday night also featured a lengthy presentation of Normandy’s scores in last week’s release of numbers from the first year’s evaluations under the fifth cycle of the Missouri School Improvement Plan, or MSIP5.
In the report, Normandy’s earned just 11.1 percent of the points possible, which would keep it mired deep in the unaccredited category.
McNichols emphasized to the board the importance of certain categories, such as attendance, where close attention has to be paid to every chance to improve -- no matter how small.
He noted that how long students attend class is being measured down to the minute. So, in many cases, for example, older students have to stay home to watch younger sick siblings because parents cannot take time off from their jobs.
McNichols said his goals for the coming year include achieving a 3 percent improvement in test scores in the academic subjects that are tested – English, math, science and social studies. He said that number may not sound like much, but because of the way that the scores are calculated, such improvement could move Normandy into the category where it earns points rather than a number of zeroes.
He emphasized, as he has at earlier meetings, that zeroes do not mean what they appear to mean, that no one passed the test.
“The average person, when they look at the data and see a zero, they think nothing is going on,” he said. “We have to educate people to see what that zero is. I think we’re off to a great start of understanding where we are."
He also plans to pay more attention to earning points in the graduation rate category and the category of preparing students for college or careers after they leave high school.
If more high school students took tests such as the ACT, McNichols said, they might set their sights higher.
“Juniors taking the ACT may do well enough to realize they could get scholarship money,” McNichols said. “We’ve got to help our families see the ACT as an opportunity get some cash.”
Graduation rates are hurt, he said, by the number of students who flunk algebra and can’t try to pass it again for another year or two. That means they don’t graduate with their class.
He said he wants to raise by 13 percent the rate at which students graduate within five years – a goal that he admitted is a stretch.
“That’s a big jump,” McNichols said.
District officials and board members plan to meet Saturday for a more in-depth look at the MSIP5 numbers.