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New website compiles Missouri school test scores, annual student improvement

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New website compiles Missouri school test scores, annual student improvement

October 19, 01:00 PM October 19, 01:00 PM

Parents and taxpayers can now review Missouri school and district data to evaluate a wide range of performance indicators, including whether students are improving year over year.

MoSchoolRankings.org by the Show-Me Institute launched last week to make data easily available and in a format understood by the public.

“I’ve always said you shouldn’t complain about something unless you’re willing to fix it,” said Susan Pendergrass, director of research and education policy for the Show-Me Institute. “I’ve been complaining. The state either can’t or won’t do this. We could and we did.”

The Show-Me Institute’s Missouri School Rankings for 2018-19 provides letter grades for English/language arts and mathematics. It provides a rank for the school and the district compared to the rest of the state and the percentage achieving proficiency. It also provides a grade, ranking and percentage of proficiency for low-income students in each school and district.

Pendergrass expects Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and others to criticize how the site provides easy comparisons for review.

“I do recall a quote from (DESE commissioner) Margie (Vandeven) on how she wants to use the latest test scores as more of a flashlight than a hammer,” Pendergrass said. “I’m sure they will see this as more of a hammer. But we can’t continue to look away or not review this information.”

In addition to the academic ratings, the site provides a grade in academic growth. The Missouri Growth Model uses four years of student test scores in grades 3 through 8. Each student’s scores in consecutive years are paired to determine how much their skills grew during the time frame.

“We included it and made it count and DESE doesn’t do that,” Pendergrass said. “They’ve been using it and publishing the numbers, but they’re not holding schools accountable for it.”

On the same day the Show-Me Institute launched its reporting site, Saint Louis University’s Policy Research in Missouri Education (PRiME) published a report showing many schools with low test scores have high growth scores.

“We really don’t think this gets talked about enough,” said Evan Rhinesmith, PRiME executive director. “The purpose of our project was to highlight this and make it more understandable.”

The next step is for schools and districts to more closely examine successful growth rates, according to Misti Jeffers, an author of the report and a postdoctoral fellow at Saint Louis University.

“The growth measure is a way of understanding what’s happening across points in time in the schools,” Jeffers said. “We’re highlighting the top schools in this category that seem to be doing an excellent job. This opens the door to dig in and figure out some of the underlying mechanisms and strategies to be effective.”

Both the Show-Me Institute and Saint Louis University launched efforts the same day DESE and Republican Gov. Mike Parson alleged the St. Louis Post-Dispatch illegally obtained personal private information from DESE’s public-facing website. Some links from MoSchoolRankings.org are to pages no longer available on the DESE site.

Pendergrass said information on the new site will allow parents to easily review academic performance of schools, especially in urban and rural areas. The data also will provide starting points for conversations when schools and districts are accredited but performing poorly in several areas.

“The whole point of standards and accountability with assessments is to find the low performers and help them get better,” Pendergrass said. “But they’re not willing to publicly call out schools for low performance or put that in front of parents. There’s talk about giving more money to schools to help them get better, but we need to let the public – who pays for the schools – know how these schools are doing.”

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