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Missouri Association of School Administrators brings up questions in DESE’s scoring methods


The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released its Annual Performance Report this week for Missouri schools, and some administrators are questioning the scoring system.

DESE uses the Missouri School Improvement Program, referred to as MSIP, to grade school districts on their performance and determine accreditation. This is the second year of the MSIP 6 model after it previously used MSIP 5.

Doug Hayter, executive director of the Missouri Association of School Administrators, said he is concerned with the recalibration.

"The average score in 2018 was 95% plus, and then currently this year the average is around 77%," Hayter said. "So, there is definitely a concerted effort to recalibrate those and move those scores down--from (DESE's) perspective to be more realistic. We still think the realism is probably somewhere in between where we were with MSIP 5 and MSIP 6."

In a news conference last week, DESE Assistant Commissioner Lisa Sireno said MSIP 6 provides a more accurate score for schools and can't be compared to previous models.

"We do believe that it is a more accurate representation of performance," Sireno said.

Because this is only the second year of MSIP 6, it is not yet being used to determine accreditation. That will start with next year's report in 2024.

Hayter would like to see more questions get answered before then.

"We feel like there needs to be continuing investigation, continuing look at the model, how it works and how it impacts various school districts," Hayter said.

Sireno said districts falling below a total score of 50% are considered unaccredited, with districts scoring 70% and above are considered fully accredited. Those in between are considered provisionally accredited.

According to 2023 data, 248 of Missouri schools fall within the 70-79.9% range, including Columbia Public Schools and the Jefferson City School District.

Performance makes up 70% of a district's overall score and Continuous Improvement makes up 30%.

New to the performance category this year were more "growth" categories, including science and social studies growth. This is an area that is also raising eyebrows.

"In the field, there's still a lot of misunderstanding and really I don't think a number that have great knowledge about exactly how it works and then how they can address that in their individual school districts," Hayter said.

He said districts need to make sure they understand how the system works and DESE needs to make an effort to make sure districts understand.

Gregg Klinginsmith, superintendent of Warren County and MSIP advisory committee member, said in a statement to ABC 17 News that growth scores are a major issue.

"This does not measure growth," Klinginsmith said. "DESE has created a calculation that predicts how students will score. Districts are then scored based on how students did compared to the prediction.  Districts are then ranked by similar districts to determine how many points are given for the APR.  Essentially, districts are being scored on how well DESE predicts a district will do."

Klinginsmith said his area of concern is the lack of transparency, that districts don't know how the predicted score is calculated or who they're being prepared to.

According to DESE's website, the Missouri Growth Model Calculation is determined firstly by determining the "statewide relationship" between current test scores and previous year test scores. Then, students are predicted a score in each subject based on those numbers. If a student performs better than predicted it is a positive, if a student performs worse than predicted it is negative.

Some Missouri schools saw large swings in scores from the first year of MSIP 6 in 2022 to this second year, including some Mid-Missouri schools.

These include High Point which increased its score by 21.8%, Boonville which increased by 13.6% and Moniteau County which increased by 10.6%.

ABC 17 News reached out to 10 schools with shifts of more than 5% to see how they feel about the scoring guide.

David Franks, superintendent of the High Point R-3 School District, said in an email that his district's almost 22% increase came from getting things done that weren't done last year and doing a better job of meeting expectations.

"I don't have a problem with the way (DESE) are doing it," Franks said. "It is like anything else, there are good parts and there are some other parts not as great, but overall it is okay by me."

A DESE spokesperson said, "Shifts in scores like you mention can happen from year to year, especially in small (districts). To address this, the department will use a body of evidence with multiple years of data to inform classification recommendations after the preparation of the 2024 Annual Performance Report."

Also when looking at the scoring, both Hayter and Klinginsmith said they believe the Continuous Improvement section is a positive. They said it holds districts accountable by evaluating their improvement plans and making sure they're making adjustments.

View how all area school districts scored in the interactive map below.

Article Topic Follows: Education

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Morgan Buresh

Morgan is an evening anchor and reporter who came to ABC 17 News in April 2023.


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