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‘Room for improvement’
in Platte R-3 test scores

by Debbie Coleman-Topi
Landmark reporter

Platte County R-3 School District officials are changing the way math is taught based on conflicting student test scores and in response to new statewide guidelines.

Some scores, such as end of course (EOC) exam results, show that only 22 percent of eighth graders scored in the proficient or advanced category. However, all students taking the MAP scored in the proficient and advanced levels on that exam.

Mike Brown, assistant superintendent-academic services/continuous improvement, detailed a short-term and long-term plan for improving algebra scores at the school board meeting held Thursday.

The plan is based on recent results on the two exams and changes in state guidelines. Brown presented some of the changes orally and board members also received supporting documents that outline changes to the written document, titled the Curriculum and Instructional Assessment Plan. (The 59-page plan is available on the district website under the electronic school board tab.)

“I think you can see room for improvement in the scores,” Brown said during the interview. “We want to make sure they (students) have those skills.”

However, Brown explained that the different tests given in different courses are responsible for the different scores.

Changes to the district instructional and assessment plan means that fifth graders will now be tested for proficiency to determine the right path (classes) and will be placed in courses that best meet their needs. Seventh graders, for instance, may be enrolled in algebra or geometry, depending on their past performance. The district will require that some students, whose scores need improvement, to re-take algebra.

He further explained that district-by-district comparisons of such scores provide a sometimes-misleading view of student achievement due to the different ways math is approached throughout the state. He said, for instance, some districts don't offer algebra to eighth graders, while others, such as R-3, provide that option.

However, new guidelines by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education that require all high school students to take the ACT test are prompting districts statewide to change instructional methods so that students can perform more successfully.

The ACT traditionally has been a college entrance exam and primarily was taken by students planning to attend college. The new requirements mean that all Missouri high school students are required to take the exam at least once during their junior year. College-bound students may choose to take the exam more than once since higher scores can land students at the college of their choice and can lead to more scholarship offers from those schools.

Another document, the Assessment Process Update, also provided to board members at the meeting and available on the district website, outlines other approaches and offers guidelines for tweaks to instructional methods. For instance, the document calls for updating and evaluating instructional methods based on results and provides a month-by-month timeline for such improvements. The document also calls for improvement teams and student-centered coaching.

At the recent meeting, Brown told school board members that he will present a comparison of R-3 test scores with surrounding districts at the next school board meeting, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17 in the board room at the district education center.
Statewide test scores are currently available on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website.