Leaders of the two school districts in Jefferson City — Jefferson City Public Schools and Blair Oaks R-2 — have begun to interpret the results made public today of the 2017-18 school year's Annual Performance Review, and those leaders are pleased, or at least encouraged, by what they've seen.
The APR is how the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education evaluates the state's public schools, with an overall percentage for a district given based on points earned out of points possible.
Schools were evaluated in key performance indicator areas of academic achievement in English, math and social studies — science was not included this year because a new test was being tried out — achievement of groups of students who haven't historically performed as well in school; college and career readiness; and attendance and graduation rates.
Jefferson City Public Schools
JCPS leaders consider the district's latest APR score as a sign of successful progress, especially with the district's push to get more of its students reading at or above their grade level.
Technically, JCPS' APR score of 87.9 percent is a new baseline score — not comparable to previous years because of changes in Missouri's assessments, and that applies to all districts' results — but local district leaders cited evidence within the points JCPS earned that progress is being made in students' reading proficiency.
The district's long-term goal is to have all of its students reading at or above their grade level and, in the short-term, have 65-75 percent of students reading at or above grade level by the end of the 2019-20 school year — as of May, 55 percent of students had met that goal.
The state's assessments for the 2017-18 APR determined 19.7 percent of JCPS students were at an advanced proficiency in English subjects; 27.4 percent were at a proficient level; 36.9 percent were at a basic proficiency level; and 16.1 percent had a below basic proficiency level.
JCPS Superintendent Larry Linthacum said, "The outcome of the focus on literacy is that we are seeing some — the byproduct of that is we're improving.
"We stuck to a plan, focused on what matters and we're seeing some benefits of that, through high expectations and responsibilities that goes along with that."
JCPS earned full credit — 16 points — on the 2017-18 APR for what can be earned for students' performance on the state's English assessment. Twelve of those 16 points were for growth — compared to six points for growth on the previous APR.
"I think it's really exciting to tack onto that that we earned the maximum number of (12) points in growth in English language arts," JCPS Director of Assessment and Planning Dawn Berhorst said, adding "'growth' looks at individual students and compares last year to this year and shows if they're growing.
"It's not just that we've got different kids. The kids that we have are improving, as evidenced by our APR," Berhorst said.
"We earned status, progress and growth points in (English)," she added — for all students and students in subgroups. Students in subgroups are identified as eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, being of certain racial or ethnic backgrounds, being English language learners or having disabilities.
Status points reflect a three-year average of a district or school's level of achievement on state assessments. Progress points measure whether there's continuous improvement.
JCPS received 15 of 16 points possible in students' performance in math; full credit for students' performance in social studies and subgroup students' performance in English and social studies; and three of four points possible for subgroup students' performance in math.
The district earned 27.5 points out of a possible 30 for students' college and career readiness. JCPS also earned 22.5 points out of a possible 30 for its graduation rate, and 7.5 points out of a possible 10 for its attendance rate.
"Our graduation rate actually is exactly the same this year as it was last year. We lost six points (on the APR), but our graduation rate did not decrease" from 84.5 percent, Berhorst said.
She added attendance in 2017-18 was 87.7 percent, and 2016-17's rate was 88.5 percent — though she said how that's calculated changed between the two years.
"Those are two areas that we know that there's opportunities for growth," Linthacum said of attendance and graduation rates.
The state measures attendance off the expectation that 90 percent of students are in school 90 percent of the time they should be.
On whether there would be any new goals or priorities given the data he's seen, Linthacum said, "For the most part, no. We're sticking to the plan and focusing on the literacy aspect."
"If you have more of your kids at grade reading level, guess what, your attendance level is higher and your graduation rate is higher," he said.
"We want all of our students to find something besides math, science, history and English to get involved with, because there are direct correlations — the more involvement you have, from science club, to flag corps, to the football team, to the art club, to you name it, there's a direct correlation to an increase in student achievement," he added.
Linthacum also said he thinks attendance and graduation rates could be helped by a change from the district's current block scheduling to more traditional scheduling, and continued work with staff to connect with students and their families.
JCPS is considering whether to change the duration and quantity of classes that its middle and high school students take each day — from fewer, longer classes each day currently to more, shorter classes.
"It's not where we want to be, but we feel good about the progress," Linthacum said of this year's overall APR score for the district — progress he added is a testament to the work of the district's staff.
"I was hoping to get to 85 (percent) this year (on the APR)," Linthacum said. He acknowledged the latest results are from a new set of assessments — not comparable to previous years — "but it's the current system that we have. We'd like to get to 90 percent next year. We'd like to be at 100 percent, obviously. We've shown steady growth, and we want to just keep continuing working together collaboratively to get better."
Blair Oaks R-2
Blair Oaks earned a 98.7 percent on the 2017-18 APR.
Blair Oaks Superintendent Jim Jones said "first off, we're pleased with the results," and he continues to be proud of the efforts of teachers, staff, students, parents and the "commitment of everyone in that group to meet high standards and lofty goals."
"Our focus is not on one assessment and one score. Our goal is for students to be better today than they were yesterday, and better tomorrow than they were today," Jones said.
"When you just look at an overall summary, the key is to break these numbers down," Jones said, adding the district is going to see it's strong in some areas and needs improvement in others.
The state's assessments for the 2017-18 APR determined 29.1 percent of Blair Oaks' students were at an advanced proficiency in English subjects; 39.2 percent were at a proficient level; 28.3 percent were at a basic proficiency level; and 3.5 percent had a below basic proficiency level.
Blair Oaks received full credit for students' performance in English and social studies, and subgroup students' performance in math and social studies. The district earned 14.7 points out of a possible 16 for students' performance in math, and 3.7 points out of a possible four for subgroup students' performance in English.
The district received full credit for attendance and graduation rates and its students' college and career readiness.
Though Jones said the APR is not the only assessment districts and schools use to determine their strengths and areas for improvement, "this is a pretty important assessment because it is our scoreboard, and there's a lot of important measures in there."