The latest Annual Performance Review totals for local school districts were reported Wednesday, but there's more to evaluating public schools' performance than an overall percentage.
Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven said Tuesday she encourages parents to look beyond the total APR score for a district and to examine the specific indicators or how proficient students were in certain subjects.
"If they just stop at what percentage of points are being earned, they will miss a wealth of information," Vandeven said.
APR scores are issued by the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to evaluate schools' performance in the key indicator areas of academic achievement, subgroup achievement, college and career readiness, attendance and graduation rate.
Academic performance is calculated using students' Missouri Assessment Program scores on standardized subject tests in English, math, science and social studies.
Jefferson City Public Schools
JCPS increased its APR score for the second year in a row, earning a score of 80 percent, after last year's 76.1 percent and 70.7 percent in 2015.
The district attained its progress through improvements in students' academic and post-secondary performance.
JCPS improved and earned full points in academic achievement for social studies.
A three-year high of 71.1 percent of students at or above the state standard on the college and career readiness exams rewarded the district with full points on that indicator.
"We're excited about the improvement but not satisfied with where we are," JCPS Superintendent Larry Linthacum said Tuesday of the district's overall APR score.
Supporting data for the APR tracks the percentage of students in each district who score as proficient or advanced in each MAP test subject area.
The district saw increases in the proficiency of its students in math, science and social studies, and a slight decrease in English.
The percentages of students who had proficient or advanced comprehension in the other subjects were the highest they've been in three years.
Students whose performance was measured as part of subgroup achievement didn't score as well in general, though the percentage of these students, who also were measured as proficient or advanced in math, was the highest it's been in three years. Science also saw a three-year high for subgroup students.
There was not enough data for DESE to report on social studies performance of subgroup students, although JCPS improved its score by half a point.
JCPS' other scores held steady overall compared to last year, meaning the district again did not score any points for subgroup math performance.
Linthacum said Tuesday the district would like to improve reading, writing and math, adding he hopes to see positive outcomes through the district's new math curriculum.
He said in August the new long-term goal in the district's strategic plan is to have every student reading at or above grade level or otherwise attaining individual educational goals if on a specialized plan.
Increasing the percentage of students reading at or above grade level also was announced as one of JCPS' three new short-term strategic goals. The other two goals are to increase monthly attendance and reduce the number of monthly discipline referrals.
JCPS' attendance rate this year was 85.3 percent, down from 86.9 percent last year.
The district's post-graduation six-month placement rate was 86.6 percent. This rate is determined by the percentage of graduates who, within six months, are attending a post-secondary institution, serving in the military or employed in an occupation directly related to DESE-approved career education programs they completed.
JCPS' six-year graduation rate rose to 89.3 percent, and the district's four-year rate dipped to 84.4 percent from 85.7 percent last year. This year's four-year graduation rate is the second highest for the district since the 2010-11 school year.
Blair Oaks earned a 98.9 percent APR score this year after a 99.3 percent score last year and 96.4 percent in 2015.
While Blair Oaks earned a perfect score on academic achievement, lower percentages of its students scored as proficient or advanced in English, science and social studies than the prior two years: 79.2 percent in English compared to 82 percent last year, 72.5 percent in science compared to 77.3 percent last year, and 70.3 percent in social studies compared to 80 percent last year.
The district saw about 1 percentage point of improvement in math.
Blair Oaks lost points on its APR scores for subgroup achievement in English and math this year, as well as in subgroup achievement in social studies.
Superintendent Jim Jones said most of Blair Oaks' students who are in the subgroup category either receive free or reduced-price lunch — an indicator of low-income status — or learn on Individualized Education Plans.
This year, 54.5 percent of Blair Oaks' students in the subgroup category performed as proficient or advanced in English, compared to a high of 62.2 percent in 2015. In math, 44.3 percent of students scored as much, compared to 47.8 percent last year.
In science, this year's measure of 42.9 percent of students with proficient or advanced comprehension was down from 54.2 percent in 2015.
Jones said he's "extremely pleased" with the district's APR score and added "we focus on every group," including students in the subgroup APR category.
The district's four-year graduation rate of 99.2 percent was the highest it's been in three years, as was the attendance rate of 97.9 percent this year.
Ninety percent of students scored at or above state standards on college and career assessments — down from last year's 91.9 percent.
Moniteau County R-1's APR score of 93.2 percent was an improvement over last year's 92.1 percent.
The California district's academic achievement score lost points in science but picked up as many for students' perfect performance in social studies.
Academic achievement in terms of the percentage of students with proficient or advanced comprehension in math and social studies improved — up to three-year highs in both subjects.
English and science saw small decreases.
Superintendent Dwight Sanders told the California Democrat last week that improvement of social studies scores has been a focus point for several years.
The subgroup achievement score in social studies had an 18 percent increase to 48.8 percent.
Sanders said the district's overall subgroup achievement score is the highest it's ever been.
"This improvement is the result of a dedicated focus on RtI — Response to Intervention — where we individually assess every student and provide focused interventions for that particular student's needs," he said.
California received perfect APR scores for its college and career readiness, attendance and graduation rate indicators.
Fewer students performed as well on college and career readiness assessments, though — 72 percent of graduates this year, compared to a high of 79.4 percent of 2015's graduates.
Of 2017's graduates, 66.7 percent scored at or above state standards on Advanced Placement tests, compared to 40.2 percent last year and 55.2 percent the year before.
California's six-month post-graduation placement rate of 89.1 percent this year was down from last year's rate of 92.7 percent, and 2015's 94.3 percent.
The district's attendance rate is the highest it's been in three years, up to 92.8 percent from 89.8 percent in 2015.
Fulton's APR score this year of 88.9 percent was an improvement over last year's 86.8 percent.
The district received full points in academic achievement for math for the first time in four years, though it also lost points in academic achievement in English. Fulton also gained points in academic achievement in social studies.
In English, 62.7 percent of students last year were measured as proficient or advanced, but that decreased to 59.7 percent this year.
The percent of proficient or advanced students in science rose to 54.6 this year over last year's 43 percent. The percent decreased in social studies to a three-year low of 47.1 percent.
Subgroup achievement in English fell two points compared to last year, and the percent of subgroup students evaluated as proficient or advanced in that subject also reached a three-year low.
Superintendent Jacque Cowherd told the Fulton Sun last week the drop in academic achievement in English is likely related to high staff turnover, and the district is discussing faculty pay to address the issue.
Subgroup achievement decreased in math and social studies, too. The decrease was more significant in social studies, with the percentage of students who were proficient or advanced down this year to 31.7 percent from last year's 42.4 percent.
The district also lost two APR points from last year in college and career for students' performance on assessments, despite a higher percentage of graduates performed better on these assessments — 71.7 percent compared to 69.8 percent of graduates last year.
The percent of students who scored at or above state standards on Advanced Placement tests hit a three-year low of 51.9 percent.
Fulton's six-month post-graduation placement rate of 87.2 percent was down from last year's 89.8 percent but still up significantly from 2015's 73.6 percent.
This year's attendance rate of 86.1 percent was a three-year low, though only a few tenths of a percent lower than 2015's rate.
"We tried a lot of different things and incentives to work through that, but it seems to be a struggle for us," Cowherd said of efforts to work on attendance.
The district's four-year graduation rate of 88.7 percent is down from last year's 90.9 percent. Fulton's five-, six- and seven-year graduation rates increased this year, the highest being the five-year rate of 91.4 percent.