Thursday, August 23, 2012

State Grades Out: Hickman Mills Misses Goal

- By Mary Kay Morrow and Paul Thompson
The state’s report card for how each district did last school year is out, and Hickman Mills
was one of only two area districts which failed to make the grade.
Missouri’s Annual Performance Review (APR) results, released last week, showed Grandview C-4 met 13 of 14 standards, their highest numbers for several years.
The only standard that the district did not meet was the EOC English II Communication Arts standard. The EOC English II standard has not been met since 2008, and administrators say they are working on meeting that goal.
Despite the positive showing, the C-4 administration is not resting on their laurels. In fact, the district is already preparing for the MSIP 5 cycle, which will begin in 2014.
“Grandview began preparing for an increase in academic rigor several years ago by aligning curriculum to the state adopted Common Core Academic Standard,” said Assistant Superintendent Lisa Walker. “And this past year GHS students participated in the optional state exams which will become required assessments with MSIP 5.”
Hickman Mills C-1 met just seven of 14 standards, down from nine standards met last year. The district met seven in 2010, and six in both 2008 and 2009.
With only seven standards met, Hickman Mills is currently facing the prospect of receiving only provisional accreditation for the upcoming year– which will be determined by state officials this fall.
Districts must meet nine APR standards to be fully accredited, and at least six for provisional status, but the state takes other things, such as improvement and closing gaps for subgroups, into account as well when making accreditation decisions.
Only Kansas City Missouri fell below Hickman with five standards met – up from three last year when it lost accreditation.
The disappointment was a big one for Hickman Mills, which had promoted a “12 in 2012” goal last school year with pins, bracelets, posters and bookmarks, promotional videos, and skits from the students and staff.
Dr. Everlyn Williams, the district’s interim superintendent, said last year she was committed to make “12 in 2012” a reality.
“‘12 in 2012’ is what we’re going to do,” she said.
Despite the disappointment, C-1 official John Baccala said he believes his district is making strides.
“If you look at our (standardized test scores) data from the last five years, our numbers are still up,” said Baccala. “So we feel like we’re still on the right track.”
 In June, Missouri Area Supervisor Dr. Tony Stansberry reminded the Hickman board the district was not out of the woods, despite an improved score last year.
“You got nine out of 14 standards. That puts you at the bottom of being fully accredited,” Dr. Stansberry said then. “The state wants to see sustained improvement.”
Unfortunately, that did not happen and the district appears poised to move to the “provisionally accredited” category next month.
Hickman Mills Board Member Darrell Curls raised the issue of the C-1’s disappointing annual performance score (APR) at the end of last Thursday’s regular board meeting. It was not on the evening’s agenda.
“We need a discussion regarding our academic achievement on the agenda….” Curls said. “Very seldom do we have conversations about academic achievement. I would like to see … what’s going wrong, or where we’re failing, and even good news … be part of the agenda at every board meeting,” he said. “If we don’t keep our eye on the ball and stay focused, we find ourselves in the situation that we’re in now – trying to catch up.”
Board President Breman Anderson Jr. said he too was uncomfortable with the district’s accreditation but “optimistic we’ll regain accreditation if moved to provisional (status).”
Dr. Stansberry has stressed the important role that boards play. He warned that boards that generally get into trouble are those that don’t pay attention to academics, have instability at the top, or fail to rely on hard data.
Other members echoed a desire for more board involvement in academics last Thursday.
Board Vice President JT Brown said the board has the information it needs and knows what needs to be done.
“It’s just a matter of the board getting really involved in academic achievement – of
using what we each bring to the board,” Brown said.
Member Dan Osman pressed for an understanding of what has gone wrong in the past in order to know what it will take for academics to move in the right direction now.
Director Eric Lowe noted that the state’s looming Cycle 5 Missouri School Improvement Plans (MSIP) will soon further complicate Missouri’s accreditation process.
Under MSIP 5, optional tests will become mandatory, and they will be joined by a bevy of new exams over new subject areas, including Social Studies and Science. Furthermore, The ACT will cease being the only college exam used in the system, as the SAT, COMPASS, and ASVAB tests will also be included in scoring the college and career readiness standards. Attendance rate and graduation rate standards will also become more stringent under MSIP 5.
On Thursday, Lowe told his peers, “I’m sure you’re all aware that with MSIP 5 and some other changes that are coming at the state level - that are going to increase the testing standards that we’re already under - us, being provisionally accredited, is not going to be good.”
He added that with just two years to prepare for that testing, “I think we need to be better informed.”
Interim Superintendent Dr. Everlyn Williams reminded board members of an out-of-the-ordinary Wednesday, August 22 meeting.
“This will be the first set of meetings where we’re going to talk about our test results,” Dr. Everlyn Williams said. “What we have planned to do is precisely what you have said tonight. We have analyzed concerns we have observed.”
Details about Hickman Mills’ scores will include some good news, and some bad news. The good news from the state’s annual report card - elementary students grades 3 to 5 met the math
standard. The district also met benchmarks for attendance and graduation rates.
The bad news – Hickman lost its high school math standard along with a bonus point for closing achievement gaps last year. Hickman Mills also failed to meet APR standards in Communication Arts MAP scores for Grades 3-5 and Grades 6-8, as well as 6-8 Mathematics. The district also fell short of state standards on End of Course Algebra I testing and End of Course English II testing. ACT testing was another category in which the district failed to meet state standards.
 Dr. Williams provided members with the Comprehensive School Improvement Plan and a letter of explanation so they could prepare questions for the August 22nd meeting.
President Anderson outlined additional meetings – a financial meeting on August 28 at 6pm to identify places to cut costs – and an August 29 6pm meeting to allocate
personnel to classrooms.
This fall, if DESE decides to classify Hickman Mills as provisionally accredited, Baccala says that the district will be put “under the microscope.” But he insists that the C-1 district will not make a drastic overhaul in their operations just because of a potential provisional status.
“Worst case scenario, at seven points we are provisionally accredited,” said Baccala. “Is it going to change anything in the classroom? You won’t be able to notice anything different. We’re not going to overhaul the whole system.”

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