Tests taken by Monett students last spring as part of the Missouri Achievement Program (MAP) showed gains in numerous areas. Monett Assistant Superintendent Brad Hanson gave a preliminary report on what the numbers mean to the district at the August meeting of the Monett R-1 Board of Education.
The Monett district, like 82 percent of other districts is the state, is categorized as "needing improvement" under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Under the rising standard in NCLB, 75.5 percent of all students, regardless of economic background, cultural heritage or learning disabilities, should now be scoring in the advanced or proficient levels on MAP tests, the top two tiers of the five levels of scores. If not, a school hits the improvement classification.
"That's a very lofty expectation," Hanson said.
To get a better sense of what the numbers mean, Hanson prefers to compare student performance from year to year. He likes to see how performance within the same group of students changes from year to year, as opposed to looking at scores for the same grade level, which always looks at different groups.
"As I looked at R-1 data, we make really significant progress from year to year," Hanson said.
Hanson has gathered numbers for the 31 school districts in southwest Missouri the size of Monett or larger for his comparison. In communication arts, he found Monett typically scores in the bottom third for the first round of state tests in the third grade.
"Why we start behind is a question," Hanson said. "My guess is that Monett has a higher percentage of not-English-proficient students. When you compare numbers as students move up, they're very competitive. By the time they reach the sixth to eighth grades, we're typically in the top third."
Another trend that surfaces in Monett's numbers is that by the time students reach high school, test results change again. Results for end-of-course exams in algebra 1 and 2, English 1 and 2 and geometry typically fall back to the middle third.
"Our ACT [college entrance exams] and advance placement [test results] are strong," Hanson said, "but if our end-of-course numbers are dropping, [high school principal] Dave Steward and I have to look at why that is.
"All in all, it's pretty impressive, seeing growth from grade level to grade level. That's a true reflection of what's going in the classrooms," Hanson said.
The fifth and sixth graders at Monett Intermediate School and the seventh and eighth graders at Monett Middle School have continued to outperform their peers. Monett's students have ranked first, second or third place in recent years of the 31 districts in those four grades.
In last spring's tests, in math, the eighth grade group ranked first in the 31 districts as seventh graders and dropped to fourth last spring. In communication arts, the eighth graders dropped from first to seventh place last spring. Hanson said he will continue to study what contributed to those changes.
Hanson said the seventh graders in last spring's test represent a typical Monett class. As third graders, they ranked 29th of 31 schools in communications arts. As fourth graders, they were 23rd. By the time they hit sixth grade, they were ranked second.
"When you look at other schools, a lot of them are on a roller coaster, up and down. Here [in Monett] you just see consistent improvement," Hanson said.
Hanson is still digging through the test results to see how the individual subgroups performed and plans to update the school board on his findings at the September meeting.
One measure of general performance available is the MAP Index, which gives a single number assessment for all students in the subgroup. For example, Hispanics at Monett tallied a MAP Index of 721 in 2008, which rose to 734, 737 and 758 in subsequent years, reflecting improvement each year.
The free and reduced meal subgroup scored 708 or 31st of all the schools as third graders. As fourth graders, they had a 727 score for 19th place, followed by a 740 score for 15th place as fifth graders, a 750 score for 19th place as sixth graders and a score of 763 or eighth place as seventh graders.
"We're encouraged by these numbers. The trends are pretty clear. It speaks well of the type of teaching that's going on at Monett R-1," Hanson said.
As a goal for the year, Hanson plans to identify why Monett scores start so low, figure out how to offset whatever factors contribute to that and work on how to keep end-of-course scores at the high levels reached in eighth grade.