Missouri education officials don’t know why student test scores are down, but they’re telling the State Board of Education not to worry.
On Missouri Assessment Program tests, 2 percent fewer public school students passed communication arts this year and point-seven percent fewer students passed in math. Third and fourth grade communication arts scores and fourth grade math scores saw declines between 6 and 8 percent.
Curriculum assessment coordinator Michael Minx says work to identify a cause has failed.
“We’ve spent time lining up school districts by achievement and number of days in school,” he says, as an example of one technique used. “That showed some drops some places and some gains some places, so you really couldn’t see a pattern there. I’ve had some folks contact me and say, ‘Well yeah, that for us … our instruction was kind of crazy this past year so it makes sense. Other people, it doesn’t make sense.”
Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro says the Department has always said a year-to-year change in scores is not worth getting excited over.
“A one year decline in scores is not something that we need to press the panic button over,” says Nicastro, who says scores have been steadily improving in recent years. “We have had an upward trend, so what we’ve said here with this Board and the Department repeatedly is that you can’t use one year of data to make any determinations. We rely on multiple years of data … to make good decisions.”
Nicastro says it is good news that more than 300 districts in the state progressed in either math or communication arts or both.
“While the statewide average did go down, and we’re certainly disappointed about that, I think what’s really important is to look at where the increases happened, what they were doing to make that kind of improvement, and what it is in those districts that did not improve that caused them to go down,” says Nicastro.
Districts will not receive individual results until late this month. Nicastro says when they do, they can begin to look for their own answers.