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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Press Releases Stating How Missouri Schools Are Doing

Following article from 8/20/09 Parent Newsletter from Janice Phelan, LSR-7 Media Specialist:

Continuing tradition of academic success

R-7 School District students scored above the state average in all grade levels in math, communication arts and science on the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) tests this year. R-7 students take the math, communication arts and science MAP tests each spring, and the 2009 results were released by the state in early August.

The students' average scores are based on the percentage of students scoring in the top two achievement levels. The 2009 MAP test results continue a tradition of R-7 School District student success. The local district has won Missouri's Distinction in Performance Award, the state's highest recognition for academic achievement, for the past eight years. The R-7 School District is also among just a handful of districts in the state to earn a perfect score on criteria for this award each year for the last eight years.

Here are other publications on the same information:

School Districts Meet State-wide Standard for Excellence
by Megan Ryder
Contact: Jonathan Steffens
Phone: 573-882-7896

31 School Districts Honored as Recipients of Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (DESE) “Distinction in Performance” Award
The University of Missouri’s College of Education and Heart of Missouri Regional Professional Development Center recognized 31 Missouri school districts at mid-Missouri’s annual DESE Awards Banquet in Columbia. Earning “Distinction in Performance” requires a school district to perform at a high level or make steady progress in all areas of academic achievement.

During the 2006-2007 academic year, 294 of 540 total Missouri school districts qualified for this prestigious recognition, which is sponsored by DESE. The “Distinction in Performance” award criterion is based on the 14 academic performance standards used in the accreditation of K-12 school districts. K-8 districts use a portion of these standards. These standards are measured by the Missouri Assessment Plan tests, graduation rate, attendance and ACT scores.

“I commend Missouri educators and students for their hard work and progress. By maintaining a strong focus on achievement and accountability in all schools, we can help all students have a brighter future,” Gov. Matt Blunt says.

“We are extraordinarily pleased to have this opportunity to recognize the outstanding academic performance and the progress made by 294 Missouri school districts — an increase of 59 from last year — who are being singled out tonight for excellence,” Brady Deaton, chancellor of the University of Missouri said. (This equals 54% of all schools.)

Chancellor Deaton continued with: “It is fitting that Missouri’s flagship university and our College of Education today join Governor Blunt and DESE officials in recognizing the high caliber of education in Missouri’s schools. Quality education systems are of paramount importance to all of us. Today, we recognize the superb efforts of many in attaining the high level of achievement required to earn this prestigious honor.”

To qualify for the award, K-8 districts must meet 6 of 7 performance standards, including all of those based on the results of MAP tests. K-12 districts must meet 13 out of 14 standards, including all of the MAP-based measures.

The following Missouri school districts were recognized for their “Distinction in Performance” at the University of Missouri:

• Blair Oaks R-II,
• Boncl R-X,
• Brunswick R-II,
• Camdenton R-III,
• Centralia R-VI,
• Cole Co. R-I,
• Cole Co. R-V,
• Columbia 93,
• Cooper Co. R-IV,
• Elsberry R-II,
• Fayette R-III,
• Fulton 58,
• Gasconade Co. R-I,
• High Point R-III,
• Holliday C-2,
• Jefferson City,
• Moberly,
• Moniteau Co. R-I,
• Montgomery Co. R-II,
• North Callaway Co. R-I,
• Osage Co. R-I,
• Osage Co. R-II,
• Otterville R-VI,
• Salisbury R-IV,
• School of the Osage R-II,
• South Callaway Co. R-II,
• Southern Boone Co. R-I,
• St. Elizabeth R-IV,
• Tipton R-VI,
• Wellsville Middletown R-I and
• Westran R-I.

“I commend all Missouri school districts for the work they do day in and day out. Ultimately, we hope each school district qualifies for this award, as educating the next generation is our most important task at hand,” says Carolyn Herrington, dean of MU’s College of Education. “I am proud of the College of Education’s association with DESE in presenting the Distinction in Performance Awards and want to congratulate each of you for your hard work and recognition.”

The “Distinction in Performance” award winners were officially announced by DESE in December 2007.

Lee’s Summit R-7 School District earns state’s
Distinction in Performance Award for eighth year in a row
Local district has “perfect 100” score on award criteria

The Lee’s Summit R-7 School District was one of just 13 metropolitan-area school districts to earn Missouri’s coveted Distinction in Performance Award this year, according to a Dec. 12 announcement from state education officials. The award honors districts for academic achievement and progress during the 2007-08 school year.

This is the eighth year in a row that the R-7 School District has received the Distinction in Performance Award, which has been offered by the state for just eight years.

"This award is a reflection of the value our community places on its quality school system," said Dr. David McGehee, R-7 School District superintendent. "We are grateful to everyone who contributes to our schools' and our students' success, including our outstanding staff, involved families and supportive community."

The Lee's Summit R-7 School District is one of just a handful of Missouri public school districts to have earned the Distinction in Performance Award with a perfect score for all eight years.

The award comes on the heels of several other noteworthy honors for the school district and community. Last summer, Money magazine named Lee's Summit R-7 schools as seventh best in the nation in its annual "Best Places to Live" issue focusing on the nation's top 100 small cities. Lee's Summit was featured during November in BusinessWeek magazine as Missouri's "best affordable town for raising children." Most important factors in this analysis were school performance, affordability and safety.

A total of 330 Missouri districts will receive the Distinction in Performance award, based on criteria set by the State Board of Education. The annual recognition is based on school districts’ performance on Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) test scores, ACT college-entrance test scores, attendance and dropout rates and other measures of academic performance during the 2007-08 school year. (This equals to 61% of all schools.)

To qualify for the recognition this year, K-12 districts had to meet 13 of 14 standards, including all of the standards that are based on Missouri Assessment Program test scores. The Lee’s Summit R-7 School District met and exceeded this goal, meeting 14 of the 14 standards and scoring a perfect 100 points for the eighth consecutive year.

Under the state’s accreditation process, school districts are formally evaluated once every five years, according to State Board of Education standards. The Distinction in Performance award is based on the same performance criteria that are included in the accreditation review process, but the award provides an annual confirmation and recognition of a district's consistent performance.

The Distinction in Performance Award is intended to provide an incentive for districts to focus on continuously improving academic achievement in all of the areas covered by the accreditation standards.

State education officials will formally recognize each of the award-winning school districts later this school year.

(Posted-December 12, 2008)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fewer Missouri Schools Meet AYP

State Officials Pleased with Steady Gains on MAP Tests

End-of-course Tests Debut; Fewer Schools Meet AYP Targets.

State education officials say they are pleased with new “end-of-course tests” in English, biology and algebra that will be used to measure the academic progress of Missouri high school students.

Results from the new end-of-course (EOC) exams were released today by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education along with its annual report of Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) test results for all public schools in Missouri.

In grades 3-8, students posted small to moderate gains in math and English at every level except one (grade 6 math), continuing the trend of slow but steady improvement in the academic performance of elementary-grade students.

That growth, however, is not sufficient to help schools meet the rising standards of “adequate yearly progress” (AYP) as required by federal law. As a result, the number of schools in the state that did not meet AYP targets this year increased again. (See chart.)

Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro said that she favored the transition to end-of-course tests and believes the new exams will be beneficial to students and schools.

“The first year of testing with the EOC program went smoothly. These tests will provide increased accountability for students and valuable information for schools to support instructional improvement,” Dr. Nicastro said.

About 63,000 students took each of the new EOC exams during 2008-09. The statewide results are:

• English II – 72.6% of student scored proficient or advanced
• Algebra I – 52.7% of students scored proficient or advanced
• Biology – 55.1% of students scored proficient or advanced

With EOC exams, students take the test over the specific course content at the end of the class. In the past, all students took a math test in tenth grade and a communication arts test in eleventh grade.

The EOC exams also are intended to increase students’ motivation to perform well on the tests. A portion of each student’s final course grade is now based on the results of the EOC exam. In the past, there were no consequences for students if they scored poorly on a MAP test.

Adequate Yearly Progress

About two-thirds of all school buildings in Missouri did not meet federal AYP targets this year, compared to about 58% in 2008.

“Adequate Yearly Progress is just one piece of a much-larger picture that displays how well our students are doing,” Nicastro said. “We have seen gains in our state test scores and progress in closing achievement gaps between groups of students. Factors such as formative assessments, student and parent engagement, attendance rates, and graduation rates are all part of the picture when looking at student achievement,” she said.

Here is a breakdown of districts and schools meeting AYP in 2009:

Title I Schools in “School Improvement”
Total Number of Public Schools 2,210
Total Number of Title I Schools 1,165
Title I Schools in School Improvement: 350
School Improvement Level 1 198
School Improvement Level 1, Delayed 39
School Improvement Level 2 100
School Improvement Level 2, Delayed 13
Title I Schools in Corrective Action: 70
School Improvement Level 3, Corrective Action Year 1 69
School Improvement Level 3, Corrective Action, Delayed 1
Title I Schools in Restructuring: 75
School Improvement Level 4, Restructuring, Planning 19
School Improvement Level 5, Restructuring, Implementation 42
School Improvement Level 5, Restructuring, Continuing 14
Title I Schools Receiving Sanctions: 495

State Summary of MAP Results
District by District Results
Preliminary List of Title I Schools Receiving Sanctions

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Jeff Grisamore States District Will Only Work With Autism Group If They Go Through Him

As for a committee on autism and special needs in R-7, I have spoken to the Superintendent and Board, which relates to why he spoke to you. If that committee is formed, you will have one voice, although I would like to see D on it too, along with others, such as J. That will be up to R-7. Given your antagonism toward me and them, you are most fortunate you are being considered to be on such a committee. I would encourage you to consider changing your approach for the sake of LSASG's credibility and influence with R-7 and beyond. Your current approach is only isolating and alienating yourself from me and others who are doing much to help children with autism and their families.

This is in response to my email where I asked the Superintendent if Jeff Grisamore was setting up these meetings and if the district will only work through him.

"Rep grisamore is getting ahead of himself. There have been no follow up discussions about any ideas that may have been mentioned in some setting. Honestly, I do not recall discussing this committee but I may have forgotten. It happens. My invitation to discuss the issues is for you only at this time. You and I can discuss together where all of this goes from there. I hope this clarifies my intention. I do not go into this knowing where we will end up but do feel our dialogue has the potential to make us a better district and help you better understand our challenges. I am really looking forward to our meetings."

Monday, August 3, 2009

Missouri Decides To Lower Standards So That All Districts Meet State Requirements

Stimulus Brings Spec. Ed. Funding Challenge
By Christina A. Samuels

The increase in special education funding driven by the economic stimulus is bringing new attention to a unique provision in federal special education law: Districts that get more special education funds from the federal government are allowed to cut back on the local funds that they use to pay for special education programs.

The intent of the provision in the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act was to allow districts to gradually scale back their own spending while using federal money to fill the gap. But the law did not anticipate a near-doubling of special education funding from the federal government in a short amount of time. States are receiving $12.2 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to spend on special education over two years, so most districts are likely to see dramatic increases in federal funds.

The prospect of being able to shift some local money from special education programs to other education needs at a time of severe budget pressure has also prompted at least two states¬—Illinois and Missouri—to change the way they assess their districts’ performance with special education students. Under stimulus-funding rules, districts that are meeting requirements under each state’s federally-mandated “state performance plan” get the spending flexibility, while districts that need more help do not.

That’s an incentive to move more districts into the “meets requirement” category, and Missouri plans to do that for one year, said Heidi Atkins Lieberman, the assistant commissioner for special education for the state.

“When we developed the criteria [for evaluating districts], we didn’t realize there would be a fiscal impact,” Ms. Lieberman said.

Shifting Criteria

Missouri evaluates districts on certain compliance issues, such as the percentage of children who receive special education evaluations in 60 days, as the federal government requires. But the state also added additional criteria for districts to meet, including specific graduation rates and dropout rates for students with disabilities. The federal government does not require that states use those measures to make final determinations for their districts.

Criteria like graduation and dropout rates, which are called “performance” indicators, are the ones that Missouri is suspending or a year. The change will allow every district in Missouri to meet state requirements, and thus allow those districts to shift a percentage of the local money that they spend for special education to other education programs. Without the change, nine districts would have had lower ratings.

The local money that would have been spent on special education can be used to avoid cuts to other programs, pay for teachers, and fund systemic changes to can improve schools for all students, Ms Lieberman said.

However, Ms. Lieberman said she had mixed feelings about the one-year change. “I am worried that people will get the wrong message. We have shifted from a compliance-oriented focus to a performance one, so it’s sort of going backwards.” But the state could not pass up the prospect of increased spending flexibility, she said.

‘A Feeding Frenzy’

Illinois is another state that is using different calculations to bring more districts up to standards. Under a new state formula for calculating compliance, the number of districts that need assistance has dropped from 321 to 159, according to a weekly message distributed to districts in June by Superintendent Christopher A. Koch.

The blog IDEA Money Watch, a project of The Advocacy Institute, a nonprofit organization in Marshall, Va., has been tracking special education spending, including gathering the documents on the changes to the policies in Missouri and Illinois.

The spending flexibility is a concern to some special education directors, who don’t want to see local special education funding diverted to other uses as new federal money flows to districts.
Mary Watson, the president of the National Association of State Directors of Education, said state education directors in a tough position. They recognize the financial bind many districts are in, but the officials also feel pressure to show that stimulus funding can help provide a better education for children with disabilities, as was intended.

“It’s been such a feeding frenzy,” said Ms. Watson, the director of the exceptional children division of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. The message that districts are getting is that “we’re doing well now, so our system can now take money away. It’s been really hard,” she said.

In North Carolina, 53 out of 115 districts now can reduce the amount of local money that they spend on special education programs, Ms. Watson said.

It’s unclear if all of those districts will choose to do that. The state has several successful initiatives under way, including programs to improve literacy and “tiered intervention” programs for academics and behavior at school. Those are all problems that could be continued, or expanded, using stimulus dollars.

But Ms. Watson is primarily getting questions from districts on how to retain teachers. “That leads me to believe that’s going to be the priority,” she said.

Local Funds Cut

The spending flexibility provision is part of the 2004 reauthorization of the IDEA. The law states that if districts receive an increase in federal funds for special education, they can reduce the amount they contribute to special education by 50 percent of that increase. So, if federal money to a district increases by $1 million over the previous year, that district can reduce its local contribution to special education programs by $500,000.

There’s a second condition on the money that is linked to evaluations that states must make of each district on a yearly basis, under the IDEA. Districts are evaluated on various indicators, and their performance determines whether they “meet requirements” or receive one of three lower ranks: “needs assistance,” “needs intervention,” or “needs substantial intervention.”

If a district receives one of those three lower ranks, it has to maintain its current level of local funding and loses the flexibility to shift local dollars to other education needs.

Mabrey Whetstone, the director of special education services for the Alabama department of education, said the stimulus has heightened the importance of those evaluations for state and local education officials.

In Alabama, 76 districts are allowed to reduce their local funding for special education because of the stimulus, though budgets are not final and so it is not clear how many will do so. Fifty-six districts do not have the flexibility, including the state’s largest school systems, Mr. Whetstone said.

The leaders in those districts have visited his offices to find out if they can get their determinations changed. Mr. Whetstone said he has carefully explained to them why it is necessary to hold the line.

“We’re being very clear: There were reasons the stimulus money was given to us,” he said. “This is an opportunity to improve the programming that is provided to students with disabilities.”

Vol. 28, Issue 37