Empty road
Susan Pendergrass

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released preliminary test scores for the 2018–19 school year. And for the first time in six years, DESE used the same test for two years in a row . . . and the results were just more of the same.

In math, the percentage of students who scored Proficient or Advanced was the same for both the 2017–18 and 2018–19 school years in 5th grade and 7th grade, a percentage point lower this year in 3rd grade and 8th grade, and a percentage point higher this year in 4th grade and 6th grade. The results in reading are similar, except that no grades between 3rd and 8th showed improvement.

But it’s really not helpful to just look at two years. Let’s go back further. Clearly, the years between the dashed lines in the figures below were periods of upheaval in Missouri testing—new standards and new tests—and DESE would tell you that they’re not comparable to anything before or after. Even if we take those years out, the fact remains that we have not been able to get more than half of our public school students to be Proficient or above in either subject. We’ve been stuck in the forties since the Cardinal’s first game in Busch Stadium.

So now money is being poured into developing new science and social studies assessments and creating the new Missouri School Improvement Plan (MSIP) 6 to replace MSIP 5. What are the chances that any of that will impact the nearly 500,000 students in the state who can’t seem to achieve proficiency in the core subjects? Moreover, if more than half of our students have been starting high school with below grade level skills in reading and math for nearly 15 years, should we be surprised when families and jobs move elsewhere?

8th grade MAP results

4th grade MAP results

Source: Missouri State Report Card, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. Retrieved August 15, 2019 at https://apps.dese.mo.gov/MCDS/Reports/SSRS_Print.aspx and Missouri Board of Education August Board meeting agenda item


About the Author

Susan Pendergrass
Director of Research and Education Policy

Susan Pendergrass was Vice President of Research and Evaluation for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools before joining the Show-Me Institute. Prior to coming to the National Alliance, Susan was a senior policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Education during the Bush administration and a senior research scientist at the National Center for Education Statistics during the Obama administration. She earned a Ph.D. in Public Policy from George Mason University.