Standardized Testing

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon talks to students at Moline elementary school in Riverview Gardens Monday, Nov. 7, 2016.
Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Nov. 7 at 3:55 with Nixon comments: No Missouri school districts scored in the unaccredited range on this year’s annual report cards, but that doesn’t mean that the state’s two unaccredited districts – Normandy and Riverview Gardens – are automatically headed for an upgrade.

And among charters in St. Louis, one – Preclarus Mastery Academy – scored in the unaccredited range for the third straight year. Two others that scored in the same territory, with less than half of the possible points – Jamaa Learning Center and Better Learning Communities Academy – closed at the end of the last school year.

Riverview Gardens Superintendent Scott Spurgeon said he is optimistic the district will return to provisional accreditation, following a recommendation from the state department of elementary and secondary education board on Nov. 23, 2016.
Kimberly Ney | Riverview Gardens School District

Updated at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 30 with information on charters and standout districts — Superintendents of Missouri’s only two unaccredited school districts say the latest standardized test scores show their students are improving.

But state school officials caution that because the tests taken in the spring were from a different source from those taken the year before, year-to-year comparisons aren’t really valid, so there is no good way to truly gauge how much progress students have made.

Still, the superintendents in Normandy and Riverview Gardens are pleased.

The St. Louis Public Schools elected board discusses business during its June meeting as state board of education member Vic Lenz looks on.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

Updated Sept. 14 with comments from Bill Monroe — The vice-president of the Missouri Board of Education warned the elected board of St. Louis Public Schools Tuesday night that if the elected board can’t work together then talks to transition district authority back could be put on hold until after the April election.

“We went around the room (during the state board meeting) and it was pretty clear that if we can’t have a working together meeting to make things happen, then we’re wasting our time,” state board vice president Vic Lenz told the elected board during their regularly scheduled board meeting.

A person filling in a standardized test bubble sheet with a pencil.
Flickr | Alberto G.

Fewer than half of the students in grades five through eight who were tested in Missouri in the spring scored proficient or advanced in math, according to new numbers from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

In English, scores were better, with the percentage of students scoring in the top two categories hovering around 60 percent in grades three through eight.

State education officials say the latest numbers shouldn’t be compared with those from previous years because the English and math tests were new.

A person filling in a standardized test bubble sheet with a pencil.
Flickr | Alberto G.

Schools seem to start classes earlier each year, but the results of student tests — and the annual district report cards that depend on them — will be later once again.

The reason: As Missouri learning standards keep changing, education officials have to take more time to figure out what the test scores mean.

A person filling in a standardized test bubble sheet with a pencil.
Flickr | Alberto G.

Updated at 3:50 p.m. May 17 with comment from state board members

A task force looking into better ways to accredit Missouri school districts says the state should judge its schools like it judges its teachers — with a number of different measurements that don’t rely so heavily on student test scores.

In a report presented to the Missouri state board of education at its meeting in Jefferson City on Tuesday, the task force concluded that Missouri should retain accreditation of districts but change the criteria it uses to determine whether schools are accredited, provisionally accredited or unaccredited. The task force is made up of superintendents and others.

Judy Baxter, via Flickr

There isn’t much difference in the titles of the old and new federal education acts — from No Child Left Behind to Every Student Succeeds. But the bi-partisan bill  approved by the Senate on a vote of 85-12 and sent to President Barack Obama on Wednesday represents more than the end of a system whose name is usually mentioned with disdain.

File photo

Normandy school officials hope disappointing test scores from last year don’t dampen the enthusiasm they’re seeing for improvement in the school year just begun.

Presenting the district’s latest MAP scores – the first report since it became the Normandy Schools Collaborative, run by a state-appointed board – Superintendent Charles Pearson acknowledged to board members Thursday night that “these are not high scores to say the least.”

teacher in classroom
U.S. Department of Education

To get an idea about how difficult it can be to interpret test score data when it comes to charter schools, consider Lafayette Preparatory Academy, just west of downtown.

Judy Baxter, via Flickr

For any school district, the path to success is rarely clear, but in Missouri, new numbers create a MAP that is particularly hard to read.

And that picture is likely to remain fuzzy for a few more years at least.

teacher in classroom
U.S. Department of Education

Test results for Missouri schools released Monday show that Normandy and Riverview Gardens, the only unaccredited districts in the state, continue to struggle.

State education officials stress that because the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) tests given in the spring were based on new standards, the results cannot be compared with results from previous years.

Missouri Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Missouri students took a new MAP test in the spring, but results released Tuesday show that the achievement gap between all students and disadvantaged students persists.

According to figures released at the meeting of the state board of education in Jefferson City, students who are black, Hispanic, low-income, disabled or English language learners -- known in education language as a "super subgroup" --  lagged behind students as a whole in all four content categories measured: English, math, science and social studies.

(via Flickr/albertogp123)

As August approaches and the back-to-school mindset takes hold, schools and parents typically wonder how students did last year and what adjustments may be needed when classes resume.

For Missouri schools, some of those answers are delayed this year. Even when they are available, their meaning won’t be clear, and that uncertainty is likely to persist for many years to come.

Peter Herschend
DESE website

JEFFERSON CITY -- When Peter Herschend joined the Missouri state Board of Education in 1991, schools in the state were rated in three ways – A, AA or AAA.

But the rankings weren’t based on detailed accounts of how well students were doing in the classroom. Instead, Herschend noted in a recent interview, the factors that went into the classification ranged from salary structure to secretarial personnel to how many fire escapes the buildings had.

Computer keyboard
frankieleon | Flickr

As Missouri schools head into the heart of standardized test season, with new exams given in new ways, state education officials are checking closely to see if districts will make the grade.

For students in grades 3-8, this year’s Missouri Assessment Program, the MAP tests, in English and math are different in two ways. First, pencil-and-paper answer sheets have given way to computerized exams. Second, the tests are based on the Common Core standards, which will be in force while work groups devise new Missouri-based standards to replace them.

When writer and educator Inda Schaenen wanted to find out what really goes on in Missouri’s schools, she decided to ask those who are closest to the action – students, and more specifically fourth-grade students.

So she traveled throughout the state, talking with fourth-graders in public, private and parochial schools, in rural, urban and suburban areas. She asked about their courses, about their friends, about why they think they have to go to school in the first place. And she asked what she said was the best trigger of them all: “What’s it like here?”

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

Figures released today Tuesday by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) show an overall drop in standardized test scores for the state's public school students.

Fewer students during the past school year achieved "proficient" scores for English, math and science sections of the Missouri Assessment Program, or MAP, tests.  Social studies was the only subject that saw overall scores rise.  

knittymarie / Flickr

Can schools cut back sharply on the number of tests that students have to take and still get a good idea of how well they are learning?

The state of Missouri is about to find out.

Missouri's state board of education has reduced the testing schedule dramatically — just a few months after approving a spending request for a testing schedule that would have had third graders taking seven hours of standardized tests each year, and high schoolers taking nine exams in four different subjects.

Destiny Esper
Dale Singer | St. Louis Beacon | 2012

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When classes began last month, Normandy schools lost more than 1,000 students who decided to transfer to accredited districts nearby. The district also lost a former valedictorian who had come back to her old middle school to teach.

Destiny Esper, who had studied journalism and public relations before deciding  to go into education, started her career teaching English at Normandy Middle School last year after going through the Teach for America program.

comedy_nose / Flickr

Updated 1:20 p.m.

The Missouri state auditor gave the St. Louis Public Schools a “fair” rating in an audit of the district released Wednesday.

Auditor Tom Schweich, a Republican, said the district was not initially cooperative with his office.

Superintendent Kelvin Adams, who also attended Wednesday’s press conference, said the audit got off to a “rocky” start because the district did not initially believe Schweich had the authority to do the performance audit.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Of the 521 school districts in Missouri with recorded accreditation status reported by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 97.4 percent are fully accredited. That’s all but 14. Of those, 11 have received provisional accreditation, and three are currently unaccredited. Those three – in the news for the last couple of weeks on account of the June Missouri Supreme Court ruling regarding student transfers from unaccredited districts – are Normandy and Riverview Gardens in the east, and Kansas City in the west.

(via Flickr/albertogp123)

The school superintendent in East St. Louis says some teachers used "inappropriate strategies and techniques" to inflate students scores on standardized achievement tests.

District 189 Superintendent Arthur Culver told the Belleville News-Democrat's editorial board on Wednesday that elementary test scores will likely drop this year. Culver didn't call the teachers' actions cheating and he didn't cite any schools by name. He also didn't describe or give examples of the questionable methods the teachers allegedly used.

(via Flickr/albertogp123)

Illinois is down to just reading and arithmetic. Writing skills will no longer be tested during the state's standardized exams for high school juniors every spring.

The Chicago Tribune reports that eliminating the writing exams will save about $2.4 million amid the state's budgetary shortfalls.

Illinois had already dropped writing assessments for elementary and middle school students last year.