Missouri School Programs Work to Improve Falling Test Scores

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JEFFERSON CITY - Programs across Mid-Missouri are working to raise falling test scores on some of Missouri's annual assessment tests.

Student achievement on Missouri's annual assessment tests decreased in mathematics and remained stagnant in communication arts this year, although they increased in science.

Overall in math, students scoring "proficient" or "advanced" decreased this year from 55.5 percent to 53.9 percent and communication arts test scores remained the same at 55.6 percent.

Sarah Potter, the communications coordinator with the Missouri Department of Secondary and Elementary Education, said the results are due to the new change in school's curriculum.

"What you are seeing happen around the state is there is a lot of change going on right now," Potter said. "We have new standards in the state, educators learning the new evaluation system, districts are moving their curriculum over to the new standards."

Potter said, while this new adjustment may have affected the scores, she believes it is more of a short-term issue rather than a long-term problem within the schools throughout Missouri.

"This is more of a bump in the road then anything," Potter said. "Once we start to see districts getting more comfortable with their rewrite of their new curriculum, after they've taught it for a couple of years, we are going to see, I believe, the scores going back."

Until the new curriculum is fully ingrained in the schools, Potter said, the current solution is for school to work with community partners. Certain programs in Missouri are aiming to do just that; raise the bar for student's academic success.

The Boys and Girls Club in Jefferson City plans to work on the core areas crucial to the development of the area's youth, which include math, reading and physical fitness. This specific club, which started in September, is partnering with Americorps, a national program devoted to academic assistance.

The program director of the Boys and Girls Club said it is still in the process of receiving volunteers from Americorps, but another program is helping students in remote Jefferson City areas. Emily Gove, said young students are already being impacted by volunteers from Lincoln's Educational Access Program (LEAP).
"Our tutoring program is unique in that we are partnering with Lincoln University and their LEAP program," Gove said. "These volunteers get their training through this program at the University and know how to work with the students."

LEAP is designed to strengthen under-prepared students with the tools necessary to persist and succeed in the classroom. LEAP is structured to help first-year college students at the University, but has now expanded to working with the Boys and Girls Club in Jefferson City to tutor students.

"They wanted to outreach in the community, and we definitely saw that area of need where they would be beneficial to our program," Gove said. "It is mutually beneficial for each other."

The club is also working within the Eldon school districts to improve academic success.

The Partners Actively Volunteering in Education (PAVE) program is collaborating with Americorps to strengthen education within the community. A goal is for every student to increase their grades and test scores, according to Daphney Partridge, Community Resource Director of the Eldon School District.

"I think that the importance is in providing a well-rounded education to students and giving them every opportunity to learn," Partridge said. "And I think that as a result of that they will perform better on these standardized assessments."

Partridge said one of the unique factors within the PAVE - Americorps program is the relationship developed with the tutors and students.

"I know when we build a relationship with the student, they are more likely to turn their homework in and more likely to attend school," Partridge said. "Lets face it, school attendance is a really important part of school achievement."

The program shows increases in end-of-course-exams in six areas, five of which are above the state average. Eldon Upper Elementary Principal, Michelle Herbet, said the system in place is consistently making gains.

"We are data driven and have a procedure and routine in place to make sure we move the students through," Herbert said. "And, if there is another student that might need some additional help, we have a system in place to bring them in as well. We are driven to promote our students to be the best that they can be."

Partridge said other ways school districts can get involved is to engage the community and identify students who need the necessary help. She said it is also important to make sure to provide information and interventions that are meaningful to the students.