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Normandy to seek reaccreditation despite low academic performance

APR scores improve, but academic performance remains low

In November the Normandy Schools Collaborative will ask the Missouri Board of Education to reclassify the district from an unaccredited to either a provisionally or fully accredited district, a move that would end the ongoing transfer program that has allowed hundreds of students to get a high-quality education from higher performing districts in the region.

Normandy Schools Collaborative Superintendent Dr. Charles Pearson notified parents of transfer students of the decision to seek reaccreditation on Oct. 10, highlighting dramatic improvements in the district’s Annual Performance Report (APR) which moved from a score of 10 points (out of a possible 140 points) in the 2014-15 school year to 76.5 points in 2016-17.

Over the past three years, CEAM has worked closely with a number of parents who have seen tremendous gains as a result of the transfer program.

CEAM congratulates the Normandy School Collaborative for making improvements, but we feel it is important that parents, both those in the district and those benefiting from the transfer program, are aware of the complex formula that has led to such an apparently dramatic turnaround.


What the numbers tell us

The APR is a composite score based on five factors: Academic Achievement, Subgroup Achievement, College and Career Readiness, Attendance, and Graduation Rates. Out of these categories, Academic Achievement (including the subgroup) only accounts for 70 of the 140 possible points.

School districts can score half of the points available (last year Normandy scored a total of 76.5 out 140 points) on the APR without actually showing any success in the core mission of a school — educating our children.

In a letter to parents, Dr. Pearson admitted that the APR improvements were largely a result of improvements in attendance, graduation rates and college and career readiness, and at a meeting last week he claimed that the district would not be able to seek reaccreditation if it had not also made improvements in academic performance.

In fact, Normandy has shown some improvement in its final Academic Achievement scores over the past three years, going from a score of 0 out of a possible 70 points in 2014 to a score of 19 out of 70 points in 2016.

But when you dial down to where those numbers come from, it becomes apparent that the district still has a long ways to go before it is providing anywhere close to the same level quality instruction that parents are receiving through the transfer program.

The APR’s final Academic Achievement score is based on a combined score of actual student academic success (called status) and either growth or progress.

The most recent data, 2016, for the Normandy School Collaborative shows that all of the district’s Academic Achievement points came from the progress category with the district earning zero points for status, or actual student success.

According to state data, in 2016 Normandy students had an average ACT score of 14.5, only 32.9 percent of the students scored advanced or proficient in English Language Arts, only 16 percent scored advanced or proficient in Math, only 7.6 percent scored advanced or proficient in Science, and only 11.1 percent scored advanced or proficient in Social Studies.

By contrast, in the Francis Howell R-III school district, where many parents currently participating in the transfer program are sending their students, The average ACT score is 22.1, and 77.9 percent of students scored advanced or proficient in English Language Arts, 68.70 of students scored proficient or advanced in Math, 66.8 percent of students scored proficient or advanced in Science, and 81.2 percent of students scored proficient or advanced in Social Studies. Francis Howell R-III also scored 69 of the 70 possible points for Academic Achievement on the APR, with the overwhelming majority of those coming from status, not progress.


What it means for parents

If the Normandy School Collaborative is successful in being reaccredited by the state, Dr. Pearson has promised that the district will attempt to work out agreements with the districts currently hosting transfer students to allow them to stay in those districts for up to three years noting the district would follow a similar process as the one worked out by the Riverview Gardens school district when it gained provisional accreditation last year.

That means that transfer students will continue to be bussed to the higher performing school districts for the remainder of this school year. In theory, they could continue attending in those districts for future years but only if they can provide their own transportation.

Dr. Pearson said if his district is reaccredited, then they would stop paying for any transfer student transportation at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. When Riverview Gardens enacted a similar plan this year, it resulted in close to 75 percent of transfer program families being forced to return to the district due to lack of transportation.

If Normandy parents face a similar reality next fall, it means that hundreds of families will have no choice but to return to a district which has drastically lower educational outcomes than what their children are receiving today.

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