Union School District -- stock

Union R-XI School District officials are pleased with the latest release of data from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

Not only did the students score above the state average in both math and English, the numbers showed positive growth compared to the 2018 scores.

“Our students hard word, plus our teachers hard work, equals the results we are getting,” said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Scott Hayes.

The state did not release annual performance report scores this year, which determine the level of accreditation for a district.

The decision not to release overall performance scores was to encourage people to look beyond a single number, the state said.

Hayes said that meant Union could compare itself to itself and what it saw was a lot of growth. 

Improving 

The numbers released by DESE show 50.3 percent of Union students scored proficient or advanced in English language arts (ELA). The state average was 49 percent.

The year prior, 47.5 percent of Union students scored proficient or advanced in English language arts.

For math, students scored 44.1 percent in 2019 compared to 38.6 percent in 2018. The state average this year was 42 percent.

This is the second year in a row students took a more challenging test that resulted in major drops between 2017 and 2018.

Hayes said it’s good to see Union students on track. The district’s growth in both math and English was pretty significant, he said.

According to a listing published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Union had the seventh highest positive growth in math and the ninth highest positive growth in English among St. Louis-area districts.

“The growth, it’s a very positive sign for our teachers,”  Superintendent Dr. Steve Weinhold said. “Their hard work, along with the all things Scott has done, have moved things forward. It’s all worth it once they see improvement.”

Hayes said the district appreciated its ranking in the Post-Dispatch, but it didn’t quite capture the whole picture. He said the data also covered students beyond just proficient and advanced and the district has seen growth in those areas as well.

“We’re celebrating all the growth,” he said.

Hayes highlighted the district’s growth among its subgroups. The students in Union’s main subgroup are those who get free and reduced lunches and students with disabilities, Hayes said.

According to the DESE numbers, students in the subgroups jumped from 36.8 percent to 40.4 in English and 29 percent to 35.8 percent in math.

“The growth (in the subgroup) is actually higher than in standard one and we’re very excited about that,” he said. 

Seeing Results

Hayes said the scores reflect what the district has been working on recently.

“We took a step back a couple of years ago and looked at our overall system,” he said. “It’s not a system of change, it’s a system of improvement. We focused on what we could currently do to improve and to meet the needs of all our students. We started in math and now we’re working in ELA and really all of our departments. We continue to look at how we can move forward.”

The district has tweaked its curriculum in math and really focused on improving math scores. Hayes said the work is paying off.

“It’s nice when a score mirrors the progress you feel you’re doing within the system,” he said.

Despite the good news, the district is not satisfied. Weinhold said while beating the state averages is a good sign, there’s still room for more growth.

“While we’re above the state average, we want to continue to improve,” he said. “That’s the goal.”

To address that, Hayes said the district will continue to focus on math for its youngest students. The district also plans to adjust and sharpen its focus on English.

“Even though our ELA has been strong in years past, our math is starting to surpass that,” he said. “The good thing is, we’re starting to focus on ELA and we’re looking at doing the same things with that that we did with math over the next couple of years.”

Other Numbers

The data release also included information on student improvement, attendance and graduation rates.

For Union, attendance decreased slightly from 92.8 percent in 2017-18, to 91.6 percent in 2018-19.

In the college and career assessment category, 65.7 percent of students were above the state standard. The number is down a bit from the 70.8 in 2018.

The graduation rate for students for completing their studies in four years was at 86 percent, compared to 84.4 percent in 2018.

Students earning their diplomas in five years was 87.4 percent in 2019, and the same the year prior. For six-year graduation rates, the number fell from 89 percent to 87.8 percent. The number of seven-year graduation rates fell form 91 to 89 percent.

Hayes said attendance, college and career assessments, and graduation rates are something the district is actively working to improve.