It’s report card time for Missouri school districts, and for Kansas City and Hickman Mills the results show setbacks that could delay their push for full accreditation.
The two area districts were among eight statewide — not including charter schools — that failed to score high enough to land at the full accreditation level.
Overall, though, the Annual Performance Reports released Friday by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education show most districts are doing a better job meeting the criteria that the state believes proves public school children are learning at expected levels.
“I’m cautiously optimistic about the improvement we are seeing,” Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven, said during a teleconference about the reports.
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The reports provide a measure of overall performance in the state’s 521 districts, giving a district points for each of several areas, including academics, college and career readiness, attendance and graduation rates. A district can earn a maximum of 140 points, but needs to claim at least 70 percent of that total to be fully accredited.
Commissioner Vandeven said 98.5 percent of schools scored in the full accreditation category. That contrasts to the first year of reports in 2013 when 30 districts scored below full accreditation, she said.
Some Kansas City area districts with full accreditation points this year include Raytown which jumped up from 71.8 percent last year to 81.4 this year. Independence went from 80 percent to 89.3 percent. Blue Springs earn 100 percent of its points. Center, an urban district in south Kansas City, stayed relatively flat, earning 92.5 last year and 92.1 this year.
Vandeven said 27 percent of the state’s charter schools located in Kansas City and St. Louis earned 90 percent of the total possible points, up from 15 percent in 2013. However the state does not accredit charter schools.
Maximum points possible vary for charter schools depending on the highest grade level served by the school.
For example University Academy’s high school earned 99.6 percent of 140 possible points. Its middle school earned 98.6 percent of a possible 70 points. And its elementary earned 88.6 percent of a possible 70 points.
Hogan Preparatory Academy earned 92.5 percent of 140 possible points. Its middle school earned 70 percent of 70 points.
Crossroads Academy earned 98.6 percent of 70; Ewing Marion Kauffman earned 92.9 percent of 70; and Lee A. Tolbert earned 58.8 percent of 80 possible points.
The state considers three years of data when calculating district performance.
Both Kansas City and Hickman Mills have been waiting for this year’s Annual Performance Reports, which has great bearing on each districts’ plans for moving to full accreditation.
Last year Hickman Mills surpassed the 70 percent mark in its pursuit of full accreditation, and was in a good position to move from provisional accreditation.
But this year, Hickman Mills dropped 11.4 percentage points below the full accreditation level. It achieved 59.3 percent of the points possible. However, the district pointed to other areas where it has made significant improvement.
“Our score does not accurately reflect positive trends within the district,” officials said in a statement. Also, the district contends the state “has shown a blatant disregard for economic inequities in urban and rural districts.”.
Hickman Mills officials have scheduled a press conference for Friday afternoon.
The district noted several “points of pride,” for this year, including an 8.3 percent increase from 2014 in graduates pursuing post-secondary opportunities such as college, military, or the workforce; an increase in its ACT composite average from 16.6 in 2014 to 17.2 in 2015 ; and significant increases on how students scored on end-of-course exams. The district also earned all possible 30 points for graduation rate.
“Our data clearly reflects year over year improvements in all areas of the state’s accountability system which have remained constant over time,” Superintendent Dennis L. Carpenter said in the statement. “When (the education department) is clear and consistent about their expectations, our district can meet the challenge of increased accountability.”
The Kansas City Public School District, which had been on an upward trajectory to reach the 70 percent accreditation-level target, fell back this year a little more than two percentage points to 63.9 percent.
That’s a drop from the 66.1 percent achieved in 2014. The district jumped last year after having gained only 60 percent of the possible points the year before.
Interim superintendent Al Tunis attributes the 2015 drop to a decline in student scores on the state-wide science assessment exams this year. Tunis said students may not have scored as well because science was the last test they took in the spring testing cycle. And for the first time students took the tests online.
“We lost 6 points in science,” Tunis said. “But we don’t consider it a setback at all.” He said the district improved in areas that teachers and students had focused on during the previous school year.
Test scores were up in English, biology, and American history. Graduation rates, and college and career readiness remained flat.
Kansas City school officials had hoped to show the district on a steady climb to the full accreditation level.
“Our plan has always been to do the best we can do and our sights are high,” Tunis said. “ We are still planning for full accreditation and have every intention to have enough points as early as next year.”
Grandview was another area district that lost some ground on this year’s report — going from gaining 90 percent of the possible points to 82.9 percent this year.
Kenny Rodrequez, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, attributed the drop primarily to poor performance on the online science tests.
“We lost 7 points on science this year,” Rodrequez said.
Statewide student performance was down on the science assessment.
“The only explanation for this negative shift in the 5th and 8th grade science performance of our students is the change to an online testing platform,” Hickman Mills’ Carpenter said in the statement. “To expect students from economically disadvantaged school districts to assimilate to a technology based assessment platform with the same speed as their non-disadvantaged peers is asinine.”