Principals at the Purdy School District provided a detailed analysis of scores from the Missouri Achievement Program (MAP) during the October Board of Education meeting.
Middle School Principal Janet Boys reported test scores for the six subgroups of students tracked in the district did not meet the desired high achievement level for the district as a whole. When broken down to the individual schools within the district, most subgroups met the standard. In many cases, performance by Purdy students reached an acceptable level when improvement was factored in.
There were bright spots within each of the campuses. The elementary school and middle schools met the overall standards because of scores improving over last year's numbers. Communication arts scores at the high school were the highest to date, topping the state standard by 7 percentage points.
The elementary school's communication arts and math scores were the highest on record. The percentage of students scoring in the top tier in math rose 15 percentage points over last year.
Principal Jeff Swadley said the third graders set the base score at the elementary school, a point from which growth can be determined for later years. The last group of third graders surpassed the state average in both communication arts and math
According to Swadley, larger class sizes impacted test scores. Going from 16 to 23 students did not allow the extra attention that produces higher scores. Teachers were reviewing grade level expectations and content standards to boost instruction in ways that will improve the test results.
The middle school overall did well, meeting the standard for progress in communication arts and math, neither of which were reached last year. Top performers rose by at least 5 percent in both categories. All five subgroups met the required score levels.
High school performance
At the high school, Principal Bob Vice reported the overall communication arts score was 10 percentage points better than a year ago and over the state target without accounting for growth. The math score was up by 14 percentage points for a new record, but 21 points short of the state's targeted goal.
Hispanic students were the only subgroup at the high school who did not perform at the targeted level in math, while meeting the communication arts scores.
Differences by sex
Overall, several performance trends varying by the sex of students surfaced. In communication arts, girls generally scored better than boys in third through eighth grades.
In fifth through eighth grades, boys generally had better scores except in scientific inquiry where girls may have used their communication skills to better explain what they were doing than the boys. In math, results for boys and girls split by content areas. After eighth grade, boys tended to score better than girls.
The principals explained how the state's annual proficiency target increases each year. While Purdy's test scores had significantly improved over the last eight years, in most cases, the state's target was still out of reach.
"I feel like the standards have forced us to pay more attention to kids that could fall through the cracks besides advancing the others," Swadley said. "The trick is not to leave out the advanced and proficient but to continue challenging those kids. It's a balancing act."
In two more years the state tests are due for a complete revision. Boys said Missouri has been working with other states to set a core standard. Teachers then will work to realign their instruction again to new performance goals.
Superintendent Jerry Lingo commended the principals for working with their faculties to improve the quality of instruction for the district.