Mehlville administrators to unveil plan to boost test scores

By MIKE ANTHONY

Executive Editor

A “plan of action” to counter a 27-point drop in the state’s Annual Performance Report was set to be presented to the Mehlville Board of Education this week by district administrators.

The Board of Education was scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday — after the Call went to press — in the Ad-ministration Building, 3120 Lemay Ferry Road.

In a Dec. 9 letter to parents and residents, Superinten-dent Tim Ricker wrote that the plan of action, designed to achieve “immediate improvement” in test scores, would be presented to the Board of Education Wednesday night.

As first reported by the Call, the Mehlville School Dis-trict received 73 points on its 2004 Annual Performance Report issued by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, a drop of 27 points from the perfect score of 100 it earned the past two years. The de- partment issues an Annual Performance Report for each school district in the state, detailing how each district met Missouri School Improvement Plan performance measures and Missouri Assessment Program standards.

As a result of its 73 score, Mehlville did not earn the De-partment of Elementary and Secondary Education’s prestigious Distinction in Performance Award that it had received the past two years. To qualify for the award, districts must meet 11 of 12 MSIP performance standards, which include MAP test scores, ACT test scores, advanced course offerings, college placement, vocational placement, dropout rate and attendance rate.

The Mehlville School District did not meet standards in three areas based on tests administered last spring — MAP grades six through eight and the reading index in grade three and grade seven. Not meeting the standards in the three areas cost the district 27 points on its 2004 APR as compared to the previous two years.

Noting that MAP tests students yearly in math and communications arts, Ricker wrote, “Each year school districts are asked to improve on previous years’ scores. Tra-ditionally, our district has had good solid scores. In fact, over the past four years our scores have been consistent and therein lies the problem.

“We were disappointed to find our scores in both math and communication arts were consistent with last year’s scores, and had not kept pace with the level of growth needed in order to be awarded points from the state model of accreditation. In fact, we did not get enough improvement points for reading in grades three and seven nor did we show enough growth in math and communication arts at the middle school level. Without those points we will not be designated as a district that receives the Distinction in Performance Award for the 2004 school year. However, be assured, these results do not affect our overall accreditation as a district,” the superintendent wrote.

Cindy Lynch, assistant superintendent for student services, gave a presentation in early November to the Board of Education about the Annual Performance Report and Adequate Yearly Progress in meeting the provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

“… In grades three through five, we met the standard by looking at our scores. In MAP grades six through eight, we did not meet the standards there, due to our scores. In MAP grades nine through 11, we met the standard,” Lynch told board members Nov. 3 regarding the Annual Performance Report. “And then they also pull out a reading index out of the comm (communication) arts. And we did not meet the reading index in either grade three or grade seven and we had, when you look at just the reading component, we had 77.6 percent satisfactory or above in grade three and we had 64.2 percent satisfactory or above in grade seven and that was a little lower than what we had last year.

“The Annual Performance Report is not only made up of our MAP scores, but it’s also made up of other factors and we did meet all the other factors, which were our ACT scores, our advanced courses, vocational courses, college placement, vocational placement and our dropout and attendance. We did meet in all of those areas,” she said.

In his letter, Ricker noted that students and staff worked hard to improve MAP scores.

After receiving the results, he wrote, “We immediately began analyzing our results and identifying why we didn’t improve. We must not forget we need to improve on an al-ready strong past performance. We met with every building principal and director, along with groups of teachers, to identify areas of improvement and areas of concern. In our analysis, we identified problem areas centered on how students read and respond to the test.

“Remember, this is not a simple multiple-choice item test. MAP tests require reading and writing a response to achieve the maximum score. We then put together a team of staff members who began working on a plan to address these issues and help improve our MAP scores in grades three and seven. Likewise, we will continue improving in all areas for accreditation. These action steps include training teachers, changing some instructional processes/practices and monitoring student results on a daily basis. Specific details of this plan will be provided to each staff member after the winter holiday and will be incorporated in each of the building’s school improvement plans,” Ricker stated.

In his letter, the superintendent stated that the district’s plan of action would be presented to school board members Wednesday night.

“In order to communicate our immediate actions we will be presenting the district’s plan of action, for immediate improvement in our MAP scores, to the Board of Educa-tion at its next regular meeting …,” Ricker wrote. “After we make public the plan, we will share the specifics of the plan with all buildings and with our community. We take our students’ performance very seriously and look to address the needs quickly and judiciously. This means mobilizing everyone in our school community to address this issue as soon as possible. Furthermore, a concerted, consistent effort on continuous improvement must be undertaken for our al-ready-solid performance to improve to higher levels.”

In response to a question from board Vice President Matthew Chellis, Lynch noted during the Nov. 3 meeting that Mehlville’s MAP scores had stayed “pretty static.”

“… If you look at through the past few years how the other districts have done, we seem like our ranking in the state has gone down slightly and so what’s happening is I think a few other districts have gotten their working improvement plans together and they seem to be working. If we stay the same, we’re going to lose ground and that’s exactly what’s happened. So what we’re needing to do is push forward … Staying the same — it’s not going to work for AYP and it certainly isn’t working for our APR either,” Lynch said.

Ricker later said during the same meeting, “… As we look at the elementary schools, regardless of their level of proficiency, we’re not moving kids up, whether they’re our highest of high schools or our schools that are in need of more help. And that’s one of the things that the APR has a major factor … for MAP test scores is that they continually have to move. And when Cindy says that we have been static, that causes us problems in the calculations for the points we need to meet the standards because those standards don’t stay static.”

Besides the Mehlville School District, other local school districts earning 73 points on their Annual Performance Report were the Windsor School District and the Ferguson-Florissant School District.

Among area school districts earning the Distinction in Performance honor were: Lindbergh, Fox, Clayton, Webster Groves, Kirkwood, Ladue, Pattonville, Rockwood, Fort Zumwalt and Washington.

Other local school districts and their Annual Performance Report scores are: Affton, 91; Francis Howell, 91; Bayless, 82; Hancock Place, 84; and Valley Park, 82.