Belcher Gives Mixed Reviews of Columbia MAP Scores

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COLUMBIA - Columbia Public Schools released their Preliminary Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) results Tuesday which remained consistent with last year's scores. The results show an upward trend over the past five years, but Superintendent Chris Belcher, said achievement of demographic subgroups is still a concern.

Specifically, students performed at or above the state on English and slightly below the state on algebra. The district did meet all 14 state standards, however.

While the last two years of MAP scores for Columbia were the highest scores for the district so far, this year grades four and seven fell below state average in communication arts. Grades three, four, and six fell below the average in math.

No Columbia Public Schools met federal goals in 2012. The requirement for this achievement is 87 percent of students test proficient or higher on MAP testing in communication arts and 83 percent in math.
Belcher said the main concern still is the demographic subgroup performance.

"We have an upward trend with our free and reduced-priced lunch subgroup, however our African American subgroup continues to fall below desired proficiency levels. Belcher said. "This is further complicated by the change in identification of subgroups to include an additional multi-racial category."

The change in the identification of subgroups happened in 2011 when a multi-racial category was added to the subgroups. This makes year-to-year comparisons difficult.

New this year, MAP score will no longer be used to determine adequate yearly progress (AYP). This was previously required by the No Child Left Behind Act. The state granted Columbia the right to use its own accountability system. The system allows the state to identify and assist schools through its own accountability system, the Missouri Improvement Program (MSIP). This waiver also prevents Columbia from receiving sanctions for not meeting federal goals.

All schools will use the results to focus on measuring progress toward the district's school improvement and student achievement goals.

Belcher said meeting all the state requirements puts Columbia in a good position to transition to a new assessment requirements program and move to Common Core Standards. These standards will be used in most states and allow them to more accurately compare data with one another.

Prior to the change to Common Core Standards, Belcher explained Missouri had the second most rigorous curriculum in the country, but was still compared to all states, even though many had easier curriculums/

Belcher also expressed frustration with the MAP. He said the MAP focuses on curriculum issues rather than student issues. He said the test compares on grade level in a year to the same grade level the next year. This means the students are not being tracked for improvements, but rather the curriculum of that grade.

Belcher hopes to begin tracking both student and curriculum progress in the next few years.