GRAHAM, Mo. — Low Annual Performance Report numbers were a concern for the Nodaway-Holt R-VII school board at its regular meeting last week, but administrators said early indicators for future years are brighter.
Comparing APR scores year to year is a difficult exercise, thanks to almost annual changes to state testing standards. But compared to other schools across the state on last year’s testing, Nodaway-Holt students across the board averaged scores below — and in some cases far below — state averages.
On the English and language arts test, for example, 48.7 percent of Missouri students scored in the “advanced” or “proficient” ranges, which is what the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education considers to be at or above grade level. At Nodaway-Holt, only 38.8 percent of students scored at or above grade level.
In math, the state average was 42 percent, while Nodaway-Holt’s average was 32.4 percent.
But that difference, although not ideal, was not a surprise to administrators, who presented the numbers to the board at the Nov. 20 meeting. Instead, elementary school principal Shawn Emerson and high school principal Michael Hollingsworth pointed to year-over-year comparisons that tracked classes of students as they moved through grade levels, comparing them to state averages for each year. The principals noted that those particular groups of students were showing positive growth and closing the gap between their scores and state averages.
Additionally, the Nodaway-Holt samples are very small, no more than 15 students in most cases, meaning that one score can skew the average significantly.
Still, the principals and Superintendent Jeff Blackford acknowledged the numbers aren’t good, but are confident that a number of cultural and organizational changes since Blackford became superintendent in 2017 are putting the district on the right track.
Specifically, Blackford pointed to attracting and retaining teachers as an important step in producing consistent growth for students going forward, and said that the new preschool and Head Start program that began this year will help to establish a strong foundation for students to build on in the future.
“We’re trending in the right direction, but we’ve got to stay committed and allow time for this to all take place,” Blackford told the board. “The reality is, we’re (in) the first year, and this is a three-year process. … We started the preschool, and we started the curriculum alignment (with Missouri School Improvement Program standards), but, you know, getting these things in place, it takes a little bit.”
Other Nodaway-Holt notes
- High school principal Michael Hollingsworth said not allowing backpacks into classrooms has significantly sped up the time it takes for random locker checks by a sheriff’s office drug-sniffing dog.
- The district will offer free admission at the first home basketball game as a community appreciation night, celebrating the completion of the new high school that was funded through a public bond.
- Parts of the roof have been approved to be replaced by insurance after storm damage sustained over the summer.
- Board members agreed in principle to demolish the now-old high school building over the upcoming summer. The project will still have to be put out to bid and other details worked out.
- Three seats on the school board — currently held by Jim Furhman, Jane Hanson and Nick Madden — will be up for election in April.