If your child is transitioning from middle to high school this fall, you might be wondering how many students at the high school graduate each year, or how many of them go on to college afterward. To find this information, you might look at the school’s report card. But many parents won’t be able to find such basic information in Missouri’s confusing school report cards.
Phi Delta Kappa recently released the results of its annual poll on education. The poll covered a lot of ground, but the results on school report cards raise some questions about Missouri. The poll found that when parents are aware of school report cards, 66 percent read them. Most parents said they have read a school report card within the past year. Eighty-two percent of responding parents found the report card useful after they read it. The positive responses to school report cards show that parents are looking for school information, and report cards can be an effective way to communicate it.
Missouri’s school report cards, which the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) produces, are available on the DESE website. However, they pose significant challenges to readers. DESE’s school report card website is difficult to navigate and filled with jargon and technical language that can be time-consuming and difficult to understand.
For example, when the report card presents a large chart displaying results on the state’s standardized test, the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP), there are acronyms including “MAP-A,” “LND” and “HS MAPA” that are not immediately defined. It requires looking through other documents to find out that MAP-A is for students who took an alternative MAP assessment, and HS MAPA is the alternative MAP assessment for high school. Later in the report card, LND is defined as level not determined, even though the test results are the first time the acronym appears.
Why have other organizations found it necessary to step in to help provide school information to parents in Missouri? Other states have successfully produced user-friendly school report cards. Why hasn’t DESE?