On Aug. 17 state education officials released the 2015 school district level results for the new tests that were administered to Missouri students last spring based on the Common Core learning standards in reading and math.
Statewide results were released the week prior to that, and those results indicated that a majority of public school students in Missouri are proficient in English, but fewer than 50 percent are meeting the requirements in math.
Many of the district level results are in line with those state-wide statistics.
State officials, however, have cautioned that comnparing this year’s results with the results of testing done in previous years is a mistake, due mainly to the fact that the assessment administered in 2015 was a new test with entirely new standards.
In other words, the testing done in the spring of 2015 marked the first time that grade-level Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) and end-of-course tests were based on the new Common Core standards in those grades and in those subjects.
The results released for Elsberry showed that 55.1 percent of students were proficient or advanced in the area of English and language arts, 38.2 percent were proficient or advanced in math, 51.2 were proficient or advanced in science, and 55.0 percent were proficient or advanced in social studies.
Like other public school officials, Elsberry R-II Superintendent Dr. Tim Reller said that those percentages should be viewed with caution.
Reller explained that the transition from 2014 standards to those that were in place by the spring of 2015 involved quite an increase in complexity and it was not an easy change for staff or students to make.
“I think the biggest thing was the transition that teachers and students made in terms of giving and taking the [new] test online,” said Reller.
Reller explained that administering and taking online tests involves a different skill set than paper and pencil tests and that those new skills must be taught before individuals can be successful with the new format.
Reller also said that there are some common misconceptions about what Common Core really is.
“In Missouri we look at Missouri learning standards,” said Reller. “Those standards are aligned with Common Core, but we really look at the Missouri learning standards. That’s what our assessment has been based on.”
In other words, there is no such thing as “Common Core Testing” in and of itself.
Rather, the results of assessments that schools in Missouri have always given are now compared to the new Common Core standards.
Reller explained that prior to Common Core there was not a system in place that allowed for an “apples-to-apples” comparison from one state to another.
The objective of Common Core was to change that and to put a system in place that brought states up to the same level.
Unfortunately, Reller said he doesn’t think that objective was accomplished.
“It was a noble goal at the time, but it has gotten derailed,” said Reller.
In fact, Reller said that Missouri is now moving away from Common Core entirely.
“Missouri is in the process of developing it’s own test based on just the Missouri learning standards and not using any other tests that are out there,” said Reller. “One of the goals of having Common Core was to provide some state to state comparability, but with Missouri going away from the group that developed those tests we’re not going to have that in the future.”
Reller said Missouri’s new testing system should be in place by 2017.
As for the district’s scores in 2015, Reller said he isn’t worried.
“When I look at our results overall I see some bright areas and I see some things we need to tweak,” said Reller. “We know what we need to work on so now we can go to work on those things. Our goal is for all students to reach proficiency, but we know we have some work to do.”