Back-To-School: Is your child’s school doing a good job?

Aug 8, 2018

Getting ready to go back to school is always a whirlwind of activity for parents and students. You have to make sure your child has had all of their doctor’s check-ups and all of their vaccinations and (maybe) glasses prescriptions are up-to-date. You have to make sure they have all the clothes and shoes they will need to fit in and be comfortable. You have to make sure they have all the supplies they (and their teachers) will need to be successful in school.

After investing all of that time and money to make sure our kids have everything they need to succeed in school, how many of us are actually checking to make sure that their school is holding up their end of the bargain and properly preparing our children for the future?

A recent national study by Learning Heroes revealed that 90 percent of parents think that their children are performing at or above grade level when in reality the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows that only 1 in 3 eighth graders nationwide are actually proficient in reading and math.

The study highlights the disparity between the success parents see on a report card and the reality of how much their children are actually learning to be prepared for success in the future.

Missouri school performance metric leaves students behind

The numbers in Missouri are even worse thanks to the state’s difficult to understand Annual Performance Report (APR), a performance metric which gives so much weight to benchmarks like attendance and graduation rates that it makes it hard to truly measure how schools are doing at their core function – educating our children.

Missouri has one of the highest graduation rates in the country, but when you look at the success of high school graduates when they move on to college the value of a Missouri high school diploma decreases. Graduation rates account for a whopping 21 percent of a school district’s APR score, but according to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education just 42.5 percent of 2017 graduates were “College or Career Ready.” That means that less than half of the 2017 graduates met or exceeded the state standards for the ACT, SAT, COMPASS, the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, or received an industry-recognized credential.

Attendance accounts for 7 percent of a district’s APR score, but a recent analysis by the Show-Me Institute reveals that, in the 2015-16 school year, Missouri had 42 schools with more than one-third of their students being chronically absent. According to the Show-Me Institute, the APR’s complex way of calculating attendance means that schools with 39 percent of students chronically absent can still score a perfect score of 10 on their APR.

Additionally, the state’s own tests for actual student academic performance, the MAP tests, produce drastically inflated proficiency scores when compared to nationally recognized assessments like NAEP. An April 2018 St. Louis Post-Dispatch analysis of the state’s MAP scores compared to NAEP scores showed “that Missouri considers thousands of students to be proficient in English and math who would not score proficient on the national test.”

What can parents do?

Parents concerned about the quality of their children’s schools should find out how their school is doing based on the state’s assessments (as weak as they are, they are the only concrete data available) and explore what other school options are in their area. In St. Louis City and Kansas City parents have the freedom to send their students to free public charter schools if they feel those schools would better fit their children’s needs. Private schools are also an option, for parents who can afford it, and thanks to a new virtual education law, parents across the state will soon have the option to access full-time virtual education programs at no cost through their local school district.

Unfortunately, many parents cannot afford private school tuition or live in areas that are forbidden from having charter schools by state law. That is why the Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri works with parents, teachers, and community leaders across the state to advocate for a real reimagining of our education system that puts the power to choose the best education possible in the hands of parents and not the arbitrary designation of the zip-code you live in.

Click here or text CEAM to 52886 to join the fight to expand access to high-quality schools across the state.