Warren County Schools getting less state assessment data

Derrick Forsythe
Staff Writer

For years, the Warren County R-III School District has received data in the fall that provided helpful feedback for measuring students’ progress.

The Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) gave markers to indicate how the district performs in various categories on a year-to-year basis, and was helpful in identifying gaps in learning. But recent changes to the MSIP tool have made using it as a data tool more challenging. 

R-III recently received the annual feedback from the state — minus many of the traditional scores that accompanied the rated categories. The MSIP is now simply awarding one of three possible statuses — accredited, provisionally accredited or unaccredited. R-III is accredited based upon data from the 2018-19 school year.

“That was positive,” said Superintendent Dr. Gregg Klinginsmith. “We’re just glad that we’re staying accredited, and we’re really happy with elementary scores being above the state average and doing really well. Our goal is to continue on that path.”

Klinginsmith discussed the changes and results during the Warren County R-III School Board’s public meeting on Nov. 14. 

“Without the scores, it does make it more difficult for the us to report to the public where we are at,” said Klinginsmith. “But getting away from the scores can also be good, because it didn’t always accurately depict progress. A district could be improving, but still behind other districts.”

Now the focus is more on how an individual district is doing over a period of time, Klinginsmith said.

The MSIP, considered the state’s accountability system, now measures five categories over three years. Districts are evaluated in terms of academic achievement, subgroup achievement, college and career readiness, attendance and graduation rate. In the past, each of those categories would be awarded a score, totaling to provide a cumulative score for the district.

“The whole purpose was to give accreditation,” said Klinginsmith. “So now the focus is more on that.”

Other changes to the MSIP process this year beyond the elimination of scoring was the field testing of social studies.

“That just means they’re not reporting scores on it this year, because it’s an assessment for just testing it out,” said Klinginsmith.

While rating scores weren’t given, the district does have data to evaluate its performance in comparison to previous years and other districts, he said. 

In the area of academic achievement, R-III saw a decline over a three-year period in math as well as English and language arts. 

“With that area of concern, we’re really monitoring students as they go through as cohorts, and as we see areas that drop, we will focus attention on those areas,” said Klinginsmith. “What we’re trying to do is have our students perform consistently throughout kindergarten through 12th grade.”

Concerning college and career readiness, there were minor improvements across the board in testing, advanced placement courses and the 180-day followup after graduation. 

“It was great to see this area as a positive,” said Klinginsmith.

The R-III graduation rate dropped from 94.9 percent to 89.5 percent between the Classes of 2018 and 2019, but Klinginsmith said several of those students have recently completed remaining credits and received their certification. 

“We had about five percent of the graduating class that decided to finish the first semester of this year,” said Klinginsmith. “This wasn’t a major concern, because we knew the story behind it. The most important thing was that they finished and caught up.”

One of the continuous struggles the district faces is physically getting students into the classroom. R-III saw attendance numbers dip for a third consecutive year, with an 86.2 percent average for 2019.

“That’s our biggest challenge,” said Klinginsmith. “Every time something doesn’t work, we try something different. This year the main thing was four-day week. It was one of the big changes we made systematically to help increase attendance.”

Klinginsmith said the district is taking different approaches at each level, including interviewing high school students to learn how to make the environment more engaging and enticing for them.

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