The St. Clair R-XIII School District scored an 88.2 percent overall on its Annual Performance Report (APR) for 2016.
The APR is the school’s “report card” released by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The district’s overall 2016 score has dropped in the last two years, with R-XIII earning a 92.5 percent in 2014 and an 89.3 percent in 2015.
Superintendent Kyle Kruse, who is new to the district this year, said he is disappointed that the APR is a little lower than the last two years; however, he said the district is showing some progress that could indicate the score will be higher next year.
“We do see some trends in student achievement that are headed in the right direction and we plan to work to continue and accelerate those trends,” he said.
Districts can earn points in five areas, which include academic achievement, subgroup achievement, college and career readiness, attendance and graduation rate. Points are given for progress, growth and status.
As a whole, St. Clair earned a 51 out of 56 points in academic achievement, down some from last year’s score of 55 points.
With all the issues with the common core, Assistant Superintendent Nadine Aitch said the state department has held districts “hold harmless” in English language arts (ELA) and math scores, meaning that when students took the new MAP test that was aligned to the common core, and they didn’t do well, DESE allowed you to go back and use a previous year’s score.
The district can use scores dating back to 2014 to get points for ELA and math.
“In 2016 we received our points in math as a district from our 2016 scores, but if you look in English language arts, we actually did use a previous year’s score,” Aitch explained. “We are going back to 2014 for that score. But of course we want to be able to use current year scores. That’s a true reflection of where your students are at.”
Using the 2014 scores gave St. Clair 16 out of 16 points in ELA, with the data showing 62.1 percent of students in the district scoring proficient or advanced on the state assessment. The district showed 54.8 percent proficient or advanced in 2015.
The district did not revert to previous years in math, as for the last three years it has earned 15 out of 16 points in that subject area.
MAP test scores in math have risen in the last year, with 46.4 percent of the district’s students scoring proficient or advanced. That is up from 40.4 percent in 2015.
In science, the district received 12 out of 16 possible points.
“Of course that’s an area of growth,” Aitch said. “We’re only at 75 percent (of the possible points). We want to work on that.”
In social studies, however, Aitch said there was reason to celebrate.
“We had eight out of eight points,” she said.
In subgroup, which is the free and reduced lunch and special education population, the district used the 2016 scores in both ELA and math.
In science, only about 75 percent of the points were achieved from those students.
“We need to focus a little bit more on our special education population and our free and reduced population,” she said.
Aitch said social studies also was a concern for the subgroup population, with the district only earning 75 percent of possible points there as well.
College and Career Readiness
In college and career readiness, which includes college entrance exams such as the ACT, advanced placement courses and post-secondary placement, the district received 85 percent of its points.
“Advanced placement is a weakness,” Aitch said. “What we’re trying to do is partner with some of the local universities so that we can offer our students college credit while they are taking high school courses. Then they can leave high school with some college hours.”
In postsecondary placement the district earned 100 percent of its points.
Attendance changed slightly a few years ago, Aitch said, with the 90/90 rule.
“In order to get all of your points, you need to get at least 90 percent of the students with 90 percent attendance or better,” she said. “We weren’t quite there in two of our four buildings so that’s why we only got 75 percent of our points.”
Aitch said the most concern with attendance is in St. Clair Elementary, which is kindergarten through second grade. That school’s score for attendance was only 7.5 out of 10 possible points, or 75 percent.
“Many elementary schools have problems with attendance because here you have brand new kids coming in with brand new germs,” she said, “and a lot of kids get sick.”
Aitch said the district will look at its attendance policy because currently the district’s policy states that students have to be fever-free for 24 hours before they can come back to school.
“That affects your attendance rate, so we have to review that,” she said. “We want to make sure our kids are coming to school as healthy as possible, but at the same time we need to be realistic about that being best for our students. We don’t want to have kids here who are sick because that would be detrimental.”
Aitch said it’s not always just illness that keeps kids out of school and the district was able to get a grant to hire a social worker to work with parents to encourage them to send their children to school each day.
“Sometimes it just takes somebody going out to the house and say, ‘Hey, put your shoes on, get your backpack and let’s go to school,’ ” she said. “And that’s all it takes.”
The elementary schools already have some incentive programs in place, but Aitch said the district is going to look into adding even more incentives.
Another building struggling with attendance is the junior high, which also is at 75 percent of possible points earned.
“We’ve got some work to do there as well,” she said.
In the graduation rate category, the district received 100 percent of its points, but it is allowable to use a 4-year, 5-year, 6-year or even 7-year rates.
The district used its 7-year graduation rate, which received a score of 30 out of 30.
Plans for Improvement
Aitch said one of the main focuses for this year will be at the junior high.
“If we have some great things in place at the elementary schools, then why are we not seeing them at the junior high?” she asked.
Aitch said there is a dip at middle schools across the state.
“Is it maturity?” she asked. “I have two students in the junior high and school is not as important as friends or sports at this age.”
Aitch said the district will look into more professional development for teachers to help them be better prepared to deal with the emotional and physical changes of students that age.
Math at the junior high, as well as districtwide, also will be a major focus, she added.
Kruse and Aitch plan to go to each building to explain the results after Thanksgiving break.
“Even though they have looked at the district APR, they truly have not dove extremely deep into it,” she said. “It is not wonderful stuff for the average layperson and you have to explain it and show them what it is that you’re truly trying to address here because it’s not something they deal with on a daily basis.”
Aitch said the issue administrators want to explain to the teachers is how the district gets its points. She also will present the district’s scores to the board of education at the next board meeting Tuesday, Nov. 15.