Latest testing data show K-12 student performance dropped dramatically across Missouri

Before the pandemic, Missouri had only three provisionally accredited and three unaccredited districts. Now, more than 100 scored low enough to be classified as provisionally accredited, though their status will remain unchanged this year

By: - March 7, 2023 1:00 pm

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Missouri students did worse across the board on the latest round of standardized testing released Tuesday, with 112 districts and charter schools scoring low enough to be classified as provisionally accredited. 

But the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, or DESE, said it would not downgrade any districts this year because it is the first of a new testing program. 

DESE released public school districts’ and charter schools’ Annual Performance Report scores to the public Tuesday afternoon, showing student performance dipping dramatically from pre-pandemic reports. 

At the time of the last complete report in 2018, three districts were provisionally accredited and three were unaccredited. All were confined to the state’s urban core in Kansas City and St. Louis. 

Provisionally accredited school districts are subject to state monitoring, and unaccredited districts, in some instances, are taken over by the state.

Now, schools scoring below fully accredited status span the entire state.

DESE officials stressed that the scores released Tuesday were indicative of COVID-induced learning loss and a more rigorous testing regime implemented for the first time this year. 

The rubric combines standardized testing scores, attendance rates, access to advanced courses, graduation rates and more. The previous version of the school improvement plan, the program puts an emphasis on students’ academic growth and the creation of a continuous school improvement plan.

“I would say the biggest shift in making this a more rigorous system is that districts and schools are held accountable for both growth and status. So, the pressure is there not only to score high at that snapshot in time for their overall proficiency rates but also to make sure that the individual student is growing at the expected rate,” Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven told reporters.

State law establishes that the first year after changes to the improvement program must be a “pilot year” that won’t be used to lower a public school district's accreditation or for a teacher's evaluation. DESE wants three years of data before using scores to lower accreditation, Mallory McGowin, DESE’s chief communications officer, said in an email.

The results of standardized testing — the Missouri Assessment Program, or MAP, —show which districts may be struggling with learning loss.

The 2018 MAP scored districts on a 40-point scale: 16 points for the district’s performance in math, 16 points for English/language arts scores and eight points for social studies.

The 2022 MAP scores have a 32-point scale: 12 points for math, 12 for English/language arts, four for social studies and four for science.

In 2018, Missouri districts scored an average of 90% of the points available in DESE’s scale, compared to 65% in 2022.

The state’s largest district, Springfield R-XII School District, dropped from 93% to 63% on DESE’s scale between 2018 and 2022.

Independence 30 School District scored a perfect 100% in 2018 but fell to 53% in 2022.

Rolla 31 School District earned a 94% in 2018’s MAP but decreased to 66% in 2022, receiving just half of the points possible in math.

Other districts’ scores remained high, and some improved their MAP achievement. Rockwood R-VI School District, the state’s third largest district, scored 97% of the possible points in 2018 and 100% in 2022.

Fort Zumwalt R-II School District earned 100% in both 2018 and 2022.

McGowin told The Independent the 2022 scores should be considered the baseline and expects growth.

Expectations for student performance remain high, and we anticipate districts and charter schools will work with their communities to meet them,” she said.

Vandeven put pressure on the state to also contribute to student success.

“It will take collective energy and commitment from across the state to elevate the teaching profession,” she said.

She pointed to DESE’s Blue Ribbon Commission, a group that set legislative goals including raising the minimum teacher salary to $38,000.

“The number one school level factor that impacts students' success is an effective teacher,” Vandeven said.

“We're facing a national nationwide teacher shortage,” she continued. “While we don't collect information on the number of substitute teachers working in schools each day, due to the educator workforce shortage, our sense is that our reliance upon substitutes is at an all time high.”

She said the department issued 18,300 substitute certificates in 2022, compared to the prior three years’ average of 12,160.


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Annelise Hanshaw
Annelise Hanshaw

Annelise Hanshaw writes about education — a beat she has covered on both the West and East Coast while working for daily newspapers in Santa Barbara, California, and Greenwich, Connecticut. A born-and-raised Missourian, she is proud to be back in her home state.