Work still needed, but steps taken to boost test scores are working

Letters+to+the+editor

Letter to the editor

To the editor:
A recent letter to the editor came from a former Mehlville Board of Education member critical of this year’s test scores.
The letter was also posted to a Facebook page where it started to get a mix of comments. Some were very good and included suggestions for improvement. Unfortunately, some were less than helpful and degraded into arguments.
I couldn’t help but think about the one point from the original letter with which I completely agree: “Our kids deserve better.”
Infighting and scoring points at the expense of others doesn’t help our children. Simply stating things are wrong and bringing no solutions doesn’t help. A former co-worker of mine used to say, “For full credit, we need to bring solutions.”
In line with this idea, I dove deeper into test scores, all the way back to 2006 for each subject area and grade. I already expected the general trends I would see. We all know the downtrend in our schools had been occurring for many years.
For example, the first signs of math trending lower occurred in 2009, and the first math grade dropping below the state average occurred in 2012.
This negative trend continued to worsen and in 2015 our community stepped up big by approving Proposition R. Many steps were immediately taken to improve academics, including the addition of reading interventionists. As a result, these past two years have seen every English Language Arts score increase and two-thirds have gained on the state averages.
Math has a similar story with slight increases, although some confusion can arise from just looking at the composite scores due to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education not including Algebra 1 this year, a subject in which 90 percent of our students regularly achieve advanced/proficient levels.
Despite this uptick, no one believes scores are where they should be. Still, it is important to understand that steps taken over the past two years have started to turn things around.
The Mehlville School District is in the beginning of an uptrend.
Our focus needs to be continuing to grow this trend with data-based solutions, teacher support and an unrelenting focus on what is best for each child.
If there is one thing we can all agree on it is that our kids deserve the best in academic opportunity, and we owe them our best efforts to provide it.
Kevin Schartner
Oakville
Editor’s note: Kevin Schartner has served on the Mehlville Board of Education since April 2016.