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Jackson School District receives 76.5% annual performance review

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The Jackson R-2 School District received a 76.5% annual performance review score from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. This is the first APR score released for the district since 2018, and is the first score using criteria from the state’s latest iteration of the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP 6).

“Under MSIP 5, we were in the 90s, so it’s a hard pill for us to swallow to say that we are down into the 70s,” Associate Superintendent Janelle Pope told the Jackson R-2 School Board during its regular meeting on March 14.

The 2022 score was released to the public on March 7. The Jackson school district previously received a 99.6% APR score for 2018, a 98.6% APR score for 2017 and a 98.2% score for 2016.

“This is a very middle of the road score, in terms of where we fall compared to the 500 districts in the state,” Pope said. “That’s not okay with us, and we are going to work really hard to improve that. I think we did okay in some areas and well in other areas, but there is a lot of room for growth.”

Pope said the district has already started to work on several of the issues found in the report, adding that the data used in the APR score was from 2022 and is almost a year old.

“We heard from the state to expect a lower score, so we kind of knew that coming in,” Pope said. “We as a district have already discussed things that we know that we need to improve – that’s a big reason why we did the strategic planning process.”

The district lost the majority of its points in the academic performance section of the report, with the district earning 86.7 out of 128 points in the performance standards.

The district didn’t receive full points in any of the academic achievement categories, which use Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) test scores in the subjects of English language arts, mathematics, science or social studies.

Pope said the district’s MAP scores were above the state average in most areas, but that scores had decreased overall from 2021.

“Overall, we did drop just slightly from 2021 to 2022 by about 1.6 percent,” she said, adding that scores had also decreased compared to when the district received its last APR score in 2018.

“There was significant learning loss across the nation when COVID hit, so we are looking at trying to gain back that learning loss,” Pope said. She said the district’s testing throughout the year does show that the district has made gains to get back to educational standards set before the pandemic.

The district also failed to get full points in academic growth categories, which is a new category for the APR report. The district received 6.1 out of 18 possible points in English language arts growth and 13.1 out of 18 possible points in mathematics growth.

Pope said this category compares individual student’s MAP scores to what they scored on MAP tests the previous year. “Our scores in that area were not very strong,” she said. “We really do need to look at student growth measures to make sure that our students are gaining from one year to the next.”

Pope said the state has told districts that data related to academic growth is not yet reliable, as there needs to be at least three years worth of data to indicate what the growth measures are. However, the data generally matches changes in MAP scores compared to 2021, where the district saw a decline in ELA scores and an increase in math scores in 2022.

“We had some pretty significant gains in math,” Pope said. “We knew that was an area that was a deficit, so we worked really hard with teachers on that and we did see some improvement there.”

Because of the uncertainty with the data, Pope said the state will not use this year’s APR scores for accreditation purposes, but still released the reports so districts could see the results of the new standards.

“We are what’s called ‘held harmless’ across the state,” Pope said. “They are giving us the data so we can see it and learn from it and grow from it, but it doesn’t affect anything in terms of accreditation or anything like that.”

Pope said she wasn’t sure how those growth scores would be calculated when there is more data next year and that will be an area the district will continue to monitor.

The district received 50% scores in the success-ready students categories, which uses seniors’ scores on college and career readiness tests and seniors’ grades in Advance Placement and dual-enrollment classes.

“I think in Jackson, we do a really good job with college and career readiness assessments,” Pope said. “We make sure every single student takes one of those assessments; however, I think it’s really challenging the way those points are scored in MSIP 6. I think it’s really hard to get all of those points.”

The APR report uses scores from ACT, SAT, WorkKeys, Accuplacer and the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) tests. Pope said students who don’t take any of these tests automatically receive zero points, but students are also graded by how well they do on these tests.

“To earn your full points you have to score above a 22 on the ACT, and the state average on the ACT is a 20.4,” Pope said. “That’s a challenging measure to get 10 out of 10 on.”

For the advanced credit category, graduates are expected to take at least one AP or dual-credit class to receive partial credit. “We know as a district that many of our students are not college bound, so we are not forcing them into AP and dual-credit courses because that doesn’t serve them well,” Pope said.

In addition, to receive full points, students must earn a grade that is a “B” or higher. Students who earn a “3” or higher on an AP test receives additional credit.

“I do know that there are districts out there who have gotten their full points in these categories, and I intend to reach out to them to see how they managed to get all of those points,” Pope said. “There must be some things we can do to improve.”

The district also lost a point due to graduate follow-up. Districts are required to follow up with gradates six months after graduation to see what their post-graduation plans are. Pope said it can be difficult to get contact information for recent graduates and to get them to answer these questions.

“I’ve already met with the high school team to problem solve some things that we can do in advance, including getting contact information during the senior breakfast and reminding seniors we are going to follow up,” Pope said.

The district did receive its full 20 points for its graduation rate. The district had a 94.28% graduation rate in 2022, compared to the state average of 89.73%. “We have a very high graduation rate at Jackson,” Pope said. “We are proud of that and that is something that we hope to continue.”

The district also received a near perfect score on its continuous improvement score, earning 51 out of a possible 52 points. The district received full points for its improvement plan, climate and culture survey, kindergarten entry assessment, individual career planning guide and for providing documentation to the state.

The only continuous improvement point missed was due to the district’s attendance record. Pope said the district made its attendance policy stricter this summer before the current school year.

Pope said the 76.5% APR score confirmed for the district that the changes recommended through the strategic planning process were needed by the district. “Even before we received this report, we knew that we had some room to grow,” she said. “We knew what we needed to work on and started plans already this year.”

The district has already worked on curriculum revisions to better match Missouri standards, as well as added new curricular resources that have increased academic objectives. Pope said they also plan to increase programs to support new teachers in the district.

“We know how important having high-quality teachers in the classroom is,” Pope said. “It’s the number one factor for student growth. We know we are in a teacher shortage, and we know we have a higher number of teachers who are not fully certified than we’ve had in the past.”

Pope said the district has started its hiring process earlier this year in the hopes that the district will see better candidates this year.

Associate Superintendent Jessica Maxwell said the district has begun focusing more on academic performance over the past three years and has started to see indicators that things are moving in the right direction.

“We spent a lot of time in the district focusing on the social and emotional piece of the student’s educational experience,” Maxwell said. “While I think that is necessary and important, I feel like we didn’t pay as much attention to academic rigor as we should have. Both of those are extremely important and we can’t do one well without the other.”

In other action:

• Jackson High School social studies teacher Mike Tornetto spoke in favor of Proposition I and N as the representative of the district’s Community Teachers Association (CTA).

Tornetto said the organization, which is composed of teachers from across the district, is in favor of both propositions passing during the April 4 municipal election.

“All the data shows that veteran teachers have the biggest impact in the present and we keep forgetting that new teachers are the ones who are going to have the impact five to 10 years down the road.”

“They (the propositions) are something that needs to happen now,” Tornetto said. “Now is the right time to vote for them.” He thanked the board and district administration for getting community input during the strategic planning process and putting these measures on the ballot.

“The average teacher in Jackson makes $7,000 less than the average teacher in the State of Missouri,” Tornetto said. “To keep that in context, Missouri is not a high paying state in education – we are not California, we are not New York. Those are real dollars year after year after year.”

Tornetto said he has talked with many community members about the propositions and have been proud of the community’s support for teachers.

“Prop I to me is very much about teachers,” Tornetto said. “I’ve been really impressed by the community support for teachers that I hear. That’s not something that is true in every community and is not something we should take for granted.”

Tornetto said while Prop I would help support teacher’s pay and benefits, Prop N would allow the district to plan for the future and manage the needs of the district moving forward.

“Prop N, the bond issue, is as much about teachers as Prop I is,” Tornetto said. “’I’ looks like teachers – recruitment, retention and lower class sizes. From the CTA’s perspective, ‘N’ is as much about teachers as ‘I’ is because it is all about the growth. ‘N’ is all about the future – they are things that matter for the future of the district.”

Tornetto said pay is a big part of teacher morale, but so is the quality of our facilities and the ability to offer extracurriculars for students. “If ‘N’ doesn’t pass, we won’t be able to meet the needs of Jackson in the future, and that’s going to cause us to not meet the needs of Jackson’s teachers in the present,” he said.

Tornetto said the CTA contributed to the All IN for Jackson “vote yes” campaign, and he would attend the district’s public forums on the propositions as the representative for the organization.

Superintendent Scott Smith also updated the board on the propositions and answered questions the board members had received related to the ballot initiatives.

“One thing I’ve learned is as we’ve gone through different presentations, people have asked different questions,” Smith said. “That has helped us to update our program and make sure we include different information to try and educate people on what Propositions I and N are.”

• The district will begin work exploring potential expansions of the early childhood program. The expansion was part of the strategic planning goals and a committee began meeting last week on the subject.

The committee, which includes parents, district administrators, certified staff members and paraprofessionals, will put together a plan detailing the needs and wants for the program’s growth. A written report by the committee will be presented to the board once completed.

• The district’s 69 school buses were inspected by the Missouri State Highway Patrol inspectors on March 13. The district had 14 buses that failed inspection, resulting in an 80% success rate. Assistant Superintendent Keenan Kinder said the district has several buses over 20 years old that didn’t pass inspection. “I don’t know many people who are delivering their children to school in 24-year-old vehicles every day,” Kinder said.

Keenan said the buses had 414 tires, 4,000 light bulbs, 700 emergency alarms, 500 mirrors, more than a half-mile of exhaust and three-fourth of a mile of fuel lines to inspect. He added that several of the issues found by the inspection were fixed before the inspectors left, but were still considered failures.

• The district celebrated School Board Recognition Month, with a special presentation from North Elementary students.

All students from the school participated in a video thanking the board, including members of the North Select Singers Choir singing a song for the board members. A few students from North also attended the meeting to give board members cookies and a copy of the poem read during the video.

Representatives from the district’s CTA also thanked the board members and gave each member a gift.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past five years. He can be reached at

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