Tag Archives: education

May Legislative Update

8 May
  • Sen. Gary Romine (R, 3rd district, Farmington) has been under heavy criticism for his role sponsoring SB43, a bill to change the legal standard in discrimination lawsuits from “contributing factor” to “motivating factor” (a higher bar to clear). This would prevent frivolous suits like the one filed by Arnold police chief Bob Shockey. Romine is under fire because a business he owns is being sued for discrimination. But this law would even not affect his case; since the suit is already in progress, it would proceed under the current rules. And people who are actually discriminated against can still win lawsuits under SB43, their claims just have to have some merit to them. Remember how Dianne Critchlow has threatened to sue the Fox district now that feckless prosecutors have let her off the hook? I guarantee her suit will include a baseless gender discrimination claim if it is filed under the current standard. As a business owner, Romine knows about the issues Missouri has with frivolous lawsuits, and is trying to address the problem. The House would need to approve this bill this week in order to send it to the governor.

Romine: “Rather than seeing this bill for what it is — one of the most significant economic development measures to come along in years — the media has been more interested in eliciting the opinions of trial attorneys, SB 43’s only real opposition and a group of people who generally stand to lose from any significant progress on the tort reform front.”

  • Sen. Paul Wieland (R, 22nd, Imperial) briefly held up the passage of HB 130, the bill to allow rideshare services like Uber to operate statewide. He thought, misguidedly in my opinion, that Uber drivers would drop their personal auto insurance since Uber provides coverage while you are working. He had other concerns as well. But three weeks later, Wieland’s concerns were satisfied and the bill was passed and signed into law.

“I just wanted to make sure we protect the public and we keep the number of uninsured motorists to a minimum and I believe this bill will do that,” Wieland told The Missouri Times Thursday.

  • Rep. Rob Vescovo (R, 112th, Arnold) was the House sponsor of SB 182, which eliminates project labor agreements in public construction projects. This bill, which has passed both houses, ends requirements that non-union contractors pay union wages and stops local governments from giving preferential treatment to union contractors. This bill will reduce the cost to taxpayers of public projects. Reps. Vescovo, Shaul, and John McCaherty (R, 97th, High Ridge) voted yes; Reps. Elaine Gannon (R, 115th, DeSoto), Becky Ruth (R, 114th, Festus), and Ben Harris (D, 118th, Hillsboro) voted no; and Roden voted present (weak).

“Some would say it’s an anti-union legislation, and I disagree,” Vescovo said after the House adjourned for the week. “I would say it’s pro-worker and it allows the other 86 percent of the workforce to bid on projects and work on projects without being signatory. That’s very important.”

  • Rep. Dan Shaul (R, 113th, Imperial) ticked off teachers, according to the Leader,  with his vote for HB634, which would allow for the expansion of charter schools in the state. Shaul also serves on the Windsor school board. Charters currently exist only in St. Louis and Kansas City. Teachers claimed Shaul has a conflict of interest, which I don’t buy. Some teachers turned their back on Shaul as he was sworn in for another term at the April 12 board meeting, which is quite juvenile. It doesn’t look like this bill will get a Senate vote. McCaherty, Roden, and Vescovo also voted yes on this bill.

“I would disagree with the assumption that my vote on HB 634 was a conflict of interest,” Shaul said. “The vote I took on 634 was to ensure that all kids throughout the state of Missouri have the same opportunity that kids (who) go to Windsor have.”

  • Along with SB43, other much-needed legal reforms have been advancing through the legislature, and our county reps have voted for them along party lines. However, Rep. Shane Roden (R, 111th, Cedar Hill) voted no on HB460, which would limit out-of-state plaintiffs who bring their cases in St. Louis in hopes of winning big verdicts. This is why you hear all those ads from lawyers about talcum powder and cancer on the radio or see them on billboards. Those plaintiffs don’t even live here.
  • Sen. Romine took to the Senate floor during debate over the budget to offer an amendment to fully fund the state’s foundation formula for education for the first time. It was a bit unusual to do this on the floor after the Appropriations Committee already put the budget bill together, and it caused a split between Senate leadership and some GOP senators as the amendment passed. Romine voted yes on this, Wieland voted no. The House also voted to fully fund the formula.
  • The issue of whether to join a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) has been roiling county government here for months, but such a plan is also advancing at the legislature, and if it passes it would make the JeffCo debate moot. The House and Senate will be going to a conference committee to iron out their differences, but with only one week left, it seems unlikely this will get done. In the House, representatives McCaherty, Roden, and Vescovo voted no on the PDMP bill, HB 90, as did Sen. Wieland.

JeffCo School APR 2014; Festus Still on Top, Fox Falls

29 Aug

It is once again time to review the state of Missouri’s rankings for school districts in our area. The Annual Performance Report is based on “state standardized tests, attendance, graduation rates and whether students leave high school ready for college or careers,” as the Post-Dispatch explains it. Here are the scores for Jefferson County districts, highest to lowest (schools with scores that declined in italics).

District                   2014            2013

Festus                      97.5             96.4

Grandview              93.9             85.4

Windsor                  92.9             85.7

Fox                           89.6             92.1

Crystal City             89.6             88.2

Sunrise (no HS)     88.8             87.5

Hillsboro                 88.6             88.2

Jefferson Co.           86.3            85.6

De Soto                     85.0            81.1

Northwest                83.9            87.5

Dunklin                    80.0            84.6

I note that Jefferson Co’s score last year was listed as 90.4, but this database says last year’s score was 85.6. I don’t know if there was some sort of adjustment or what.

“Over half of Missouri school districts did increase their score,” said Missouri Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro. That includes all but three Jeffco schools, as you see above. Fox C-6, which was 2nd in the county last year, plummeted into a tie for 4th as its score dropped and other schools’ scores rose. It should be noted that school was out for the year before the twin scandals surrounding disgraced superintendent Dianne Critchlow erupted. Festus remains in the top position in the county, having the 8th-best score out of 55 schools in the St. Louis metro area. Dunklin (serving Pevely and Herculaneum) was 9th from the bottom.

I hope to go into greater detail about these scores in a later post. Here is my analysis from last year. This is the second year of this particular ratings system. These scores were called MSIP5 scores last year.

JeffCo Education and Income Data

9 Sep

I thought it would be interesting to break down some of the demographic data on the various cities and towns in our fair county. Using the US Census Department’s American Factfinder website, which uses data from the 2010 census as well as 2007-2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, I pulled out education and income data for each zip code in our county (zip code map here). Specifically, I looked at percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher and household median income. Note that the listing for Murphy, with the 63026 area code, also includes Fenton, which is partially in St. Louis County (see the zip code map link above). Note also that I included Clayton and St. Louis in the table for purposes of comparison. The table is sorted by descending household income. Click to enlarge.

JeffCo Education and Income Information

JeffCo Education and Income Information

I expected to see this table more or less go from north to south Jefferson County for both categories, with the northern cities being richer and more educated. This turned out to be largely true, but not perfectly. I was rather surprised to see Barnhart at the top of the list for income at over $73,000 per household. There’s not a whole lot in the town in terms of businesses that would employ a lot of people or provide high incomes to many, but I guess people who live in any of these cities don’t necessarily work there (especially those cities closer to St. Louis). On the other end, I was surprised to see Pevely at the bottom of the list with about $40,000 income per household. Pevely has several industrial/manufacturing companies (Dow, Verallia, Midwest Refractories) that one would expect to provide good middle-class jobs. But again, maybe their employees live out-of-town. Despite being worst in the county, Pevelians still out-earn residents of St. Louis.

Education was somewhat correlated with income, but again not perfectly. Murphy led the way here with a whopping 32% of residents with college degrees, to go with its #2 spot in income. Dittmer brought up the rear with 8%. Crystal City was pretty far down the income list despite its robust 19.3% rate of bachelor’s degrees, third in the county. Everyone else was in the 11-20% range.

I hope to do some more with local census data. Perhaps I will look at employment data and divorce rates in my next installment.

Jefferson County MAP Scores 2013; Festus on Top

25 Aug

It’s time once again to dig into the numbers and see how our county schools are performing. With the release of MAP test scores for 2013 and the results of the new Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) assessment, we can see how our schools stack up. I did a somewhat similar comparison last year. Here is this year’s chart, sorted by MSIP score (click to enlarge):

JeffCO MAP 2013

These ratings – “structured like a report card for school districts based on data such as state standardized test scores, attendance, graduation rates and whether students leave ready for college or careers” – are compiled somewhat differently from previous years’ scores. This system is supposed to allow for finer distinctions. The results of this assessment thrust the Festus district to the top of the county rankings. Last year, when I looked at high schools only, Fox was at the top of the list (based on average MAP scores across subjects). Festus High was 5th.

At the bottom of the list, we have De Soto. The district’s high school did well last year (4th). There is a gap of 15% between Festus and Desoto. De Soto has had some controversy over the last year with a proposed unpopular change in its grading system and a dismissed superintendent. Note that Sunrise, a K-8 district near De Soto, had the worst average MAP score, but topped four other districts in MSIP score. This may be because Sunrise scored well in attendance and in subgroup achievement (test performance of minorities, free-lunch eaters and English language learners). Sunrise also doesn’t have to worry about MSIP standards related to ACT tests, AP courses, etc. since they don’t have a high school. Sunrise also is improving from year to year (by MSIP scoring standards), which helps the MSIP score. Go here to look up specific scores for your school.

Conversely, Windsor had the 4th best MAP average, but had only the 8th-highest MSIP score in the county. I’m not really sure how MSIP scores correspond to MAP scores, but Windsor got low MSIP scores for high school math and middle school science that brought it down. Sunrise had low MAP scores, but high MSIP subject scores.

The new Jefferson R-7 district continues to do well, placing third in the county this year.

Here’s a comparison of district-wide English and math scores between this year and last year:

JeffCO MAP 2012-3 Comparison

 

Here, Crystal City, Grandview, Northwest, and Windsor showed improvements in both categories. De Soto, Hillsboro, Jefferson, and Sunrise showed decreases in both.

These are some numbers to consider when your school asks for approval for a tax increase or bond issue. The voters at Sunrise just approved such a measure.

MAP Test Results for Jefferson County Schools

21 Aug

After trying for a couple of days to wade through the labyrinth that is the Missouri’s education reporting web site, I think I can discuss how our local schools fared on last year’s Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) tests). But some of this is still confusing, so I appreciate any insight you can provide in the comments.

These tests are given every year as part of the federal No Child Left Behind program. These results help certify schools for accreditation (a designation schools in St. Louis and Kansas City currently lack), and they also determine school districts’ Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), although Missouri, like 33 other states, has a waiver releasing it from having to meet these goals. These tests serve as a way for us to compare districts.

Let me start with some linkage. It was not easy to find what I was seeking, so I hope these help you.

  • AYP Summary – tells you at a glance how each district, or even each school within a district, performed on the whole vs. AYP. The factors included in AYP include test participation rate, attendance, graduation rates, and student performance on math and communication arts (aka reading or English) parts of the test. Student scores are broken down by race, ethnicity, disability, limited English, and free lunch status. Students in each subgroup have to meet the test threshholds (if that subgroup has a critical mass in the district, which is 30 kids for most subgroups). These grids do not contain 2012 information, presumably because of the aforementioned waiver.
  • AYP Grid – gives you test scores for each subgroup, along with attendance and graduation figures, for districts and schools. Also tells you if each subgroup met the standard or not. See the bottom of page 2 for a legend that deciphers the many notations on the report. These numbers, and the ones in the database below, tell you the percentage of students who scored ‘proficient’ or ‘advanced’ for each subject (other score possibilities are ‘basic’ and ‘below basic’). These grids do not contain 2012 information.
  • Post-Dispatch database – gives you an easy way to look up communication and math scores for each school for 2011 and 2012.
  • State Achievement Report – see the number and percentage of students at each school or district that scored in each of the 4 levels (below basic, basic, proficient, advanced) for each subject. Includes 2012.
  • Raw test score data – See how each grade at each school scored on each subject (including some besides communications and math). Includes 2012

To review AYP information for Jefferson County from last year, no district met the AYP benchmarks. This is because one or more subgroups at each district didn’t pass either math or communications at the required level. Windsor was very close – only the disabled students’ (officially called IEP, or individual education plan) score on communications missed the cut. The next best schools in this regard were Northwest, which made the grade for 9 of 14 groups, and Festus, which did for 6 of 10.

Separately, but somewhat related, we can compare test passing percentages for each school (scores of proficient or advanced pass, as you recall). This tells us how kids do on the tests, regardless of groupings. If you aren’t really interested in how the subgroups fare, but how kids do overall, this is the place to look. I have compiled a table that shows the percentage that passed English (aka comm arts) and Math for each high school for 2011 and 2012 (I didn’t want to do this for all grade levels, so I just did high schools, except for Sunrise, which only has an elementary school). I then summed English and Math scores, from the Post-Dispatch database, to come up with a total for 2011 and 2012, and calculated the change between years. I sorted the schools based on their 2012 sum, best to worst. I highlighted in red subject scores that dropped from 2011 to 2012 (click to enlarge). Note also the statewide results at the bottom.

As you see, the top two scorers were from the Fox district, with Seckmann taking the top spot after being in third place last year. Fox was again in second, and DeSoto (they of the suspended superintendent) plummeted to fourth due to a big drop in passing math scores.  The newcomer to the county, Jefferson High, placed third in its third year of existence (I believe). DeSoto had the second-biggest drop from 2011 to 2012, behind Grandview, which dropped 30 points and down to last place. On the whole, you see a lot of red numbers on this table. . The two Hillsboro-area schools, Hillsboro and Grandview, brought up the rear (along with the kids at Sunrise).

There appear to be some discrepancies between the AYP Grid and the Achievement Report scores. For example, the Grid says DeSoto High kids passed comm arts at a 88.7% rate last year, but the Report says 77.8. The respective math numbers are 83.2 and 78.  Maybe there are some adjustments that are done to the Grid numbers. Comparing the two sources for Fox High shows that the numbers are within a percentage point.

It is useful for parents and citizens to be able to compare schools in this manner. It is hard to evaluate anything without having something to compare it to, and because of these scores, we can compare. This is not an end-all-be-all evaluation; there are other factors to consider (like FOOTBALL), but with this info available, we can hold our school boards and administrators accountable. So go do it.

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