MAP/EOC, ACT assessment results and early childhood/elementary school configuration were the main topics of discussion at Tuesday night's Board of Education meeting.

Dr. Zach Templeton, superintendent of schools, presented a PowerPoint presentation on the MAP/EOC test results from last spring. "We continue to improve. But we need to focus on continuing to get better," Templeton said.

He showed graphs on how the district compares to the state level and how the 2017 district tests compare to the 2016 district tests. English Language Arts had more scores below the state average than math. "We were closer to state in math than English Language Arts," Templeton said. Eighth grade physical science was more than 10 percent above the state average and high school biology I was above the state average. The elementary schools were below the state average in science. "The elementary schools need to make up the most ground in science," Templeton said.

The superintendent also presented a district comparison from 2016-2017 with 2017 showing better averages in most subjects than in 2016.

The district improved scores in 13 of 23 tested areas, seven in elementary, three in middle school and three in high school. "There are some areas we need to focus our attention on, but we also need to look and celebrate the wins we got," Templeton said.

Dr. Peter Perll, president of the board, said it looks like the district is headed in the right direction but there is still work to be done. "We want to be ahead of the state average," Perll said.

Brad Ellebracht, Mexico High School principal gave a report on the ACT. The ACT is a measure of college-related testing designed for high school students. "We are consistently closing the gap on the state average," Ellebracht said.

A general overview of the average scores for students in the class of 2017 include: Total number tested 140 MHS plus 8 MEC; 68,480 state; composite, 19.4 MHS, 20.4 state; English, 18.7 MHS, 19.8 state; mathematics, 19.0 MHS, 19.9 state; reading, 19.7 MHS, 20.8 state; and science 19.5 MHS and 20.5 state. Ellebracht explained the ACT is designed for juniors but some seniors also take it. He said the tests are taken by everyone, including those who are not going to college.

Ellebracht said students who engage in rigorous course-work will score better on the test and perform better in college. He said at the high school they are ensuring that all of the course-work is appropriately rigorous, especially the upper level classes and are encouraging students to challenge themselves.

Perll stated that the students need to realize if they do well on their ACT and score at the very top they can receive free college tuition and scholarships. "It is difficult to get it, but if they do they can go anywhere for free," he said.

The school board had asked district administration to explore optional configurations for elementary education.

Templeton provided information to the board on how grades can be shifted. At present, the district operates three elementary schools which are divided geographically within the city limits of Mexico.

Mexico Public Schools is exploring the possibility of configuring elementary education by grade level rather than geographic boundaries. Templeton said that preliminary discussions have determined that based on the availability of each site, McMillan would serve early childhood and kindergarten students; Eugene Field would serve grades one through three, while Hawthorne would serve grades four and five or Hawthorne could serve grades one and two while Eugene Field would serve grades three through five.

Templeton presented pros and cons for district finances, student achievement, and culture and climate.

An alternate would be for McMillan to have an expanded early childhood and all kindergarten, while Eugene Field and Hawthorne serve first through fifth grades. With the alternative there would be some efficiencies which might save district resources. Also, new school boundaries would have to be established to balance the enrollments of the schools.

Board members discussed the configuration on when to start the change if they voted for it. Perll would like to see it implemented as soon as possible. Board member Dustin Pascoe said the didn't think the change should take place next school year. "We don't want to rush into it and regret it later," he said. Board member Kelli Teel agreed with Pascoe, "We don't want to hurry and make a decision just to make a decision. We want to make sure that all our bases are covered," she said.

After the discussion, members decided the next step would be to gather more information and discuss it again next month.

Also, on the agenda was the last report on construction from JE Dunn and Hollis and Miller; and the superintendent evaluation goals. Pascoe said he had a rough draft for the board to look at and they could make the final approval next month.