Good morning everyone. There have been a lot of posts in the last several days on various pages related to perception of district concerns. Some of these are about the way individuals voice their concern, some are about the perception of negativity and some are entirely feelings based. I learned during my time in the US Army as an intelligence analyst that just collecting data is not enough. You have to take the individual data points and analyze the trends.
Those of you that know me, know that I am a "data guy". I like to evaluate the data and base my decisions on facts more than perception. I agree that we need to address both but my first inclination is to go to the data. After saying all of this, I want to share the MSIP5 data for the last five years and point out the trends. The MSIP5 is the tool the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education uses to evaluate student performance. The chart below shows the trends of the Joplin Schools performance over the last 5 years. It is a little complicated to analyze because some of the "basic" and "proficient" scores are getting better. It is not until you can determine from where the increase is coming from that you can determine if an increase is a good thing. Here is an example, in Social Studies the District increased the percentage of Proficient from 40.4 % to 40.8%. Mathematically this would be considered a slight gain. It is not until you see that the Advanced declined by 3.2% into the Proficient category that you can say there was a decrease in Proficient by 2.8%. These are both bad things!
The easiest two groups to measure individually are the "Below Basic" and "Advanced". In the Below Basic the District increased by 56%, 65%, 8% and 71% over the last five years. At the same time the Advanced declined by 19%, 4%, 19% and 13%. My point is that we are missing the most basic responsibility we have to our students and this is their education. We have task force on future construction, capital outlay, building equity, etc. and again these might be noble efforts but I don't see the same level of effort going into student academic improvement.
My last point today is that patrons of our schools across Joplin have different concerns and therefore different views on how we are doing as a district. I attended a parent meeting at Columbia on Thursday night and those parents were mainly concerned with safety and quality of life issues. These were related to physical security, something as simple as a better water fountain and how their kids can enjoy the playground while it is covered in mud. At Soaring Heights where my son attends, these are not concerns at all. That doesn't make parents in either school wrong. They just see different issues. We need to be able to listen to each other and not judge them based on our experience in the district.
I am happy to be positive but I need to be realistic first. If we try and shut each other down because we don't see the same issues, we will never resolve them. Please join me in giving a voice to being more open with each other and tackle the things that seem to be concerns for some before it divides us all.