Purdy gains ground in review

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Reordering social studies, increasing rigor shows results

The Purdy school district showed gains this year in the Annual Performance Review (APR) issued by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), recovering most of the drop seen between 2014 and 2015.

The district scored 108 points out of 140 in the report, which summarizes student scores from the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) tests given in the spring. Unlike the MAP tests, the APR bases half of its assessment of test scores below high school, then bases 43 percent on high school tests, including college entrance exams like the ACT, advanced placement and dual credit class offerings, graduation rate and what students choose to do after high school compared to their courses.

Last year, on a different test, the district scored 104.5 points. The year before, on yet a different test, the district received 111.5 points.

"We're pleased with the growth and we believe it is early signs of a more dramatic shift," said Superintendent Steven Chancellor. "Over the last couple of school years, we have intentionally focused on shifting the school culture to embrace more rigor and higher expectations. Our late-start Mondays focus directly on this, and we are looking for ways to further increase its effectiveness."

A big shift that showed up in this year's score came in social studies, where overall the district received zero points last year, and five this year. According to Mindi Gates, associate superintendent, the district had offered material tested to freshmen, but found that did not translate into good scores on the state tests. Students moving into the district had not encountered the material at all.

"Social studies will increase more after this year by default," Chancellor said. "Before, ninth grade students were taking the end-of-course exam in government. Now, we have moved that to an 11th-12th grade course so this will be the first full year of an entire class taking the government end-of-course exams."

The change showed especially well in performance by subgroups, the ethnic groups and economically challenged. Their scores in social studies topped the 2014 mark.

The district's science scores dropped two points. Gates attributed that to the state trend, which reflected a general drip.

The APR also focuses on the post-college preparation students take, based on their declared goals for college studies or the workplace after graduation. Occasionally, graduates change their mind, and the state deducts points for the district if that happens.

"The 108 is our adjusted score," Chancellor said. "Our original was lower due to incorrect coding on our graduate follow-up report. This is why we did not achieve full points on Standard 3, [college and career readiness], and it is quite frustrating, admittedly. Of the 42 graduated seniors, only one failed to pursue college or a career after leaving Purdy.

"However, because their college major or career did not match their high school vocational course record, we lost points."

Other changes were minor, compared to the previous year. The district lost a point and a half on performance in advanced placement and dual credit classes. Most scores matched the previous tally.

"Organizational change can be hard, slow work," Chancellor said. "I'm pleased we are starting to see our efforts pay off in our quantitative measures. We put a tremendous amount of emphasis on deepening our thinking, stretching our comprehension and reapplying new knowledge in multiple ways.

"We believe this is the right work, the work that matches the expectations from DESE, but it feels good to see that effort begin to be validated."

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