A look at Mid-Missouri schools' latest Annual Performance Review scores as a whole tells some broad stories about collective achievements and challenges local schools can claim.
APR scores are calculated each year by the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to measure progress on public schools' academic achievement, subgroup achievement, college and career readiness, attendance and graduation rate indicators.
Subgroup achievement refers to the performance of students such as those who receive free or reduced-price lunch, have diverse racial or ethnic backgrounds, are English language learners, or are students with disabilities.
Districts must maintain a 70 percent or higher APR score to receive full accreditation.
"For the second straight year, no traditional school district in the state scored in the unaccredited range, and statewide, grade level MAP proficiency was up at least 1 percent in all content areas," Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven said Tuesday during a teleconference with reporters.
MAP refers to the Missouri Assessment Program's standardized subject tests that measure students' level of proficiency in the subjects of English, math, science and social studies.
The state did, however, use "hold harmless" measures for districts' scores in English and math, meaning because of issues that resulted in the algebra I and English II assessments being thrown out for this year, districts' latest APR scores reflected their best recent score in English and math, even if that wasn't necessarily in 2017.
College and career readiness measures have shown steady improvement across the state over the last five years, Vandeven added Tuesday.
"The big picture is encouraging, but we still have much room for improvement," she said.
On average, the 20 Mid-Missouri schools the News Tribune analyzed improved their total APR scores slightly this year — about 0.23 percent on average — when leaving out the non-traditional Missouri School for the Deaf. Bringing the School for the Deaf back in raises the average level of progress to more than 1 percentage point this year over last, skewed because of a 17.4 percent jump in the School for the Deaf's APR score — from 33.3 to 50.7.
The School for the Deaf had only 11 graduates last year compared to five in 2016 and seven in 2015, meaning variance in individual students' performance can greatly affect the overall scores from one year to the next.
The average academic achievement score for the 20 Mid-Missouri school districts analyzed — excluding the School for the Deaf — was a little more than 52 points of 56 possible.
Good or perfect performance in academic achievement, college and career readiness, and graduation rate was pretty typical across the board for the 20 Mid-Missouri schools in this year's APR reports.
No traditional district scored below a 25 out of 30 in college and career readiness, and 12 districts had perfect scores.
Every district in Mid-Missouri except for Jefferson City Public Schools had a perfect score on its graduation rate. JCPS earned a score of 28.5 out of 30 points.
JCPS had a long-term strategic goal of increasing its graduation rate from 81 percent; the district's four-year graduation rate hit 84.4 percent this year, and though that's down from the previous year's 85.5 percent, it's also the second highest rate since the 2010-11 school year.
JCPS' new long-term strategic goal announced over the summer is to have every student reading at their appropriate grade level or above and have students with individualized needs meeting their educational goals.
"We feel like if we do that, then graduation rates and those other things will take care of (themselves)," Superintendent Larry Linthacum said in July.
In terms of attendance, 13 districts received perfect scores of 10 out of 10, and another seven received scores of 7.5.
One nearly universal point of commonality is no Mid-Missouri district except for South Callaway County R-2 received a perfect score for subgroup achievement; South Callaway received a perfect APR total score overall.
South Callaway's Superintendent Kevin Hillman told the Fulton Sun last week he credits improvements in the district's academic success to work on curricula and instructional strategies.
"In addition, the district has implemented high levels of intervention to ensure as many students as possible are working on grade level in reading and math," Hillman said.
Six other school districts in addition to South Callaway received perfect scores on academic achievement — 56 out of 56 points: Blair Oaks R-2, Eldon R-1, Osage County R-3, School of the Osage, Southern Boone County R-1 and St. Elizabeth R-4.
The average subgroup achievement score of all 20 schools and districts was 10.6 points, usually out of a possible 14, though for some schools it's 12 points. Removing the School for the Deaf from this calculation raises the average to about 10.9 points.
"There is still an achievement gap. That gap itself has remained relatively constant over the past couple years. No major change either way," Blaine Henningsen, DESE's assistant commissioner for the Office of College & Career Readiness, said in the teleconference Tuesday of the statewide trends this year.
Eldon's Superintendent Matt Davis said Friday he credits his district's preschool and after-school programs and "solid academic interventions throughout the school day" with the perfect score in academic achievement.
"We're always looking at improving our regular curriculum and improving our interventions," he said of continued work to close the achievement gap in Eldon, where 8-9 percent fewer students in subgroups scored as proficient or advanced in subjects.
"We will need to look at our subgroup achievement in ELA," Russellville's Superintendent Perry Gorrell told the California Democrat last week.
"We individualize plans for students to get them from below basic to basic and then proficient. Our district continues to implement the best strategies to make all students successful. This is also evident of our ACT composite score that is for the first time ever above state average," Gorrell added.
DESE did not have enough supporting data to report on subgroup achievement at the St. Elizabeth district.
Superintendent Toni Westbrooks-Taylor on Friday credited her district's success in academic achievement to staying consistent with methodology and teaching.
"We try to make sure that all of our students are given the opportunity for growth," Westbrooks-Taylor said, adding she's especially proud of their success in reading and communication arts.
She added her district has seen "a slight dip" in math scores, so that subject will be the focus of improvement this year. She said St. Elizabeth will be using a computer program to help identify individual students' needs.
She also said the district uses beginning of the year assessments for K-8 students in the first three or four days of school to evaluate where students are after the summer — "where does the class fall as a whole, and we meet them at the door."
"If you're just waiting on one score, you're missing out," she said of the district's approach of using multiple assessments to evaluate their progress, plus the APR score.
APR scores can be viewed at mcds.dese.mo.gov/guidedinquiry/Pages/Accountability.aspx, by then clicking on "MSIP5 Annual Performance Report (APR)."