Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) test scores released in August show Mexico students in grades 3-8 scored higher than last year in seven grade areas, and also scored lower in seven grade areas.
All Missouri public school students in grades 3-8 are administered the standardized test in English Language Arts and mathematics. Fifth and seventh graders also are tested in science.
"The 2013 MAP test data are mixed," Zachary Templeton, assistant superintendent, said. "We were excited to see an increase in most of the grade levels on the mathematics and science tests, and a little perplexed by the lack of improvement on the English Language Arts test. At this point in the process the most important thing for us to do is to try to understand why we were better in some areas and not others."
Much of the improvement in the areas tested was in math. Students in fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh grades improved district-wide. Students in fifth grade had the biggest improvement, up 7.5 percent from 2012 scores.
At Mexico Middle School, 60.8 of last year's seventh graders scored in one of the top two categories, Advanced or Proficient.
MMS math teacher Becky Schafer credits the hard work of the students and the content-driven teachers in the department for the increase in scores. "All six of the math teachers work together to make sure students are successful," she said. "We meet weekly to talk about objectives, curriculum, assessment and lessons. We have 'what are we doing right, what are we doing wrong, where do we go from here' type discussions."
The math teachers make sure they are teaching and assessing objectives and specific skills. "When we teach the grade-level expectations, this is not 'teaching to the test,' this is teaching what the state standards say we should be teaching," Schafer said.
"In the classes we emphasize making sure students have learned the material, not just that we taught and assessed it," she said. "If students have not mastered an objective, it is important to reteach it to them. We expect the most from our students and we will not accept not learning or failure as an option."
A decision made by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to remove Algebra I scores from the eighth grade totals also affected scores.
Some advanced mathematics students at Mexico Middle School take Algebra I as eighth graders instead of as ninth graders at Mexico High School. This year, these scores were pulled from the MAP totals to be placed with the high school End of Course (EOC) exam scores.
The MAP will be given one more year, then Missouri testing will become standardized with 40 other states. The testing program, called Smarter Advanced Assessment Consortium, will be aligned with the existing Missouri Learning Standards.
Page 2 of 2 - "The push to have national assessments came out of No Child Left Behind," Superintendent of Schools Kevin Freeman said. "The new assessment will be a different format, including being completely computerized. To compare these future scores to the MAP scores will be like comparing apples to oranges."
For older students, the EOC exams will remain the same.
"Our focus is to continue to get better until we can claim we are doing well and consider ourselves one of the higher performing districts in the area as well as in the state," Templeton said. "We believe our students have the capacity to achieve at a high level and we believe our teachers can help our students get there."
(All MAP scores are available online at http://mcds.dese.mo.gov/Pages/default.aspx).