Statewide performance on Missouri school assessments mostly dropped in 2014.
Why? No one knows for sure, but the state identified a lineup of suspects for state school board members Tuesday.
The state refreshed the exams with a host of new questions for the first time since 2010.
Testing season and preparation time played out against a backdrop of unrest over the Common Core State Standards.
Schools have gone through a difficult transition to the new Missouri Learning Standards under Common Core.
It was a hard winter. Lots of school days were missed and made up in May after the tests.
Individual district and school performances won’t be published until Aug. 29, but the statewide results suggest significant improvement may be hard to come by.
Kansas City Public Schools, however, did see preliminary details of its performance publicized at a special meeting last week when the state agreed to restore the district to provisional accreditation.
Kansas City overall saw a slight decline in math and English language arts performance — which is now shown to have mirrored the state results.
The state recommended Kansas City for provisional accreditation largely because the district moved significant numbers of students out of the lower performance categories to earn critical growth points.
All students are tested in math and English language arts in the third through eighth grades. High school students take end-of-course exams that determine their schools’ performance.
The percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced in the grade level English language arts tests fell at every grade except seventh grade. The biggest drops occurred in third grade, from 48.5 to 42.3 percent, and fourth grade, from 53.5 to 46.3 percent. Other drops were 3.5 percentage points or less.
The percentage of proficient or advance performances fell at every grade level but eighth grade in math. The biggest drop was from 50.8 to 42.9 percent in the fourth grade. Other drops were less than two percentage points.
The news was better for end-of-course exams, with rises in algebra II from 54.1 to 63.6 percent, in geometry from 60.5 to 65.9, and in English II from 69.1 to 74.6.
Declines were seen in algebra I, from 57 to 54.9 percent, and in English I, from 60.3 to 60.
Results were mixed in science, falling in the fifth grade and rising in the eighth grade, and down in the biology end-of-course exam.
Performance rose on the end-of-course exams for American government and American history.
State officials do not think declines are due to validity problems with the tests. An analysis by testing vendor CTB/McGraw-Hill and a state-commissioned independent review affirmed that the test results are reliable, the state said.
Some 300 districts and charter schools — more than half in the state — saw increases in either math or English language arts, despite the overall decline, the state said.