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JR-2 sees improvement in MAP testing

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The Jackson R-2 School District shared its 2023 MAP testing results during its regular Oct. 10 meeting, with the district seeing improvements in most testing areas.

“We are extremely happy to report that we had growth in almost every area and every grade level,” Associate Superintendent Janelle Pope said. “We dipped a little bit at the junior high in seventh grade, but we are above the state average in every category for every grade level.”

The ELA and math scores for seventh graders were the only 2023 MAP testing scores that saw a decrease compared to 2022. All test scores for third through sixth graders, as well as eighth graders and high schools saw an increase.

“We’re really proud of the growth and the hard work that our teachers have put in,” Pope said. “There are some areas where we had some really impressive performances.”

In third grade, 46.2% of students scored at proficient or advanced levels in ELA, compared to 44.4% in 2022, and 52.5% scored at proficient or advanced levels in math, compared to 44.8% last year.

In fourth grade, 52.2% of students scored at proficient or advanced levels in ELA, compared to 48.7% in 2022, and 54.3% scored at proficient or advanced levels in math, compared to 46.8% last year.

In fifth grade, 56.3% of students scored at proficient or advanced levels in ELA, compared to 48.6% in 2022, and 40.1% scored at proficient or advanced levels in math, compared to 32.3% last year. In addition, 42.9% scored at proficient or advanced levels in science, compared to 39.9% in 2022.

In sixth grade, 49.0% of students scored at proficient or advanced levels in ELA, compared to 45.4% in 2022, and 52.3% scored at proficient or advanced levels in math, compared to 48.4% last year.

In seventh grade, 43.8% of students scored at proficient or advanced levels in ELA, compared to 46.4% in 2022, and 44.2% scored at proficient or advanced levels in math, compared to 48.2% last year.

In eighth grade, 48.7% of students scored at proficient or advanced levels in ELA, compared to 37.6% in 2022, and 61.9% scored at proficient or advanced levels in math, compared to 56.3% last year. In addition, 52.5% scored at proficient or advanced levels in science, compared to 51.6% in 2022.

At the high school, 62.4% of students scored at proficient or advanced levels in ELA 2, compared to 60.3% in 2022. In math, 54.8% scored at proficient or advanced levels in algebra 1, compared to 52.4% last year, and 78.3% scored at proficient or advanced levels in algebra 2, compared to 58.2% in 2022. In addition, 48.5% of students scored at proficient or advanced levels in biology, compared to 42.7% last year, and 47.7% scored at proficient or advanced levels in government, compared to 43.8% in 2022.

Pope said that the district hopes that the growth will transfer to a higher annual performance review score from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) next spring.

The district received a 76.5% annual performance review score in March, which was much lower than the district had previously received. The district had not received an APR score since 2018, when the district received a 99.6% APR score.

The 2023 APR score was the first under the state’s new iteration of the Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP 6). 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 and social studies.

DESE stated in their release of assessment data statewide that overall scores have not returned to pre-pandemic levels, but that ELA scores had seen slight increases in all grades except sixth and seventh grade. Math and science scores had increases or stayed steady in all grades and courses, and social studies scores had declined statewide.

District and school-level data is expected to be available from the state in December.

In other action

• The board approved the curriculum for secondary core elective classes, which includes elective classes at the middle school, junior high and high school from the ELA, math, science and social studies departments. The board approved curriculum for required courses last year.

The elective courses include foundation classes, accelerated classes, Advanced Placement (AP) classes and duel-enrollment classes.

Joey O’Neal, the instructional facilitator for secondary education, and teachers Mike Tornetto, Kerrie Mid-dleton, Mary Adams and Jay Spurgeon spoke about the work each curriculum team did to create the curriculum.

Each course’s curriculum includes the course description, the length of each unit and learning standards for each unit. Unlike required courses which all had Missouri learning standards, some standards are found from other organizations.

Tornetto said the district pulled standards from Collage Board for AP courses, Southeast Missouri State University for dual enrollment courses and from various professional organizations when no state standards were available.

“Psychology is not reflected in the Missouri learning standards, so in that instance, we turned to the American Psychology Asso-ciation’s high school guidelines,” Tornetto said.

Middleton added that foundation classes, which are support classes students can take between core classes, use Missouri learning standards from various grade levels to make sure students are prepared for core classes like algebra and geometry.

In addition, some courses at the middle school and junior high use Missouri learning standards aimed for older students.

Spurgeon said the junior high’s forensics class has to use high school standards because it is rare for a forensics class to be offered at the junior high level. “As far as I know, we’re the only forensic course that is teaching at a seventh and eighth grade level,” he said.

The newly approved curriculum will be added to the district’s website. Curriculum material can be found at under district information.

• The board approved an evaluation of the district’s parents as teacher program, which connects families with children under the age of Kindergarten entry with educators who visit the families in their homes.

The district’s parent educators showed the school board some of the games and activities they do with the children to help prepare them for Kindergarten and make sure they are on track developmentally.

Brooke Uchtman, director of early childhood education for the district, said the full-time parent educators visit an average of 80 families each and part-time parent educators visit about 20 families each.

Uchtman said the addition of part-time parent educators, which occurred around four years ago, has allowed the district to see more families in the evenings. The program served 325 families and included 1,629 home visits last school year.

In addition to the home visits, the parent educators connect families to various resources in the community and screened 195 students for developmental delays last year. Parent educators also work with early childhood teachers to host various group connection events throughout the school year where parents as teacher families can attend.

• Jeff Stroder from Beussink, Hey, Roe & Stroder presented the district’s annual audit report, stating the district had received a clean audit report on the district’s financial records from the 2022-2023 school year.

Stroder stated the District’s financial statements were fairly stated and no adjustments needed to be made to the financial record to get a clean report.

While no issues were found in the financial statements, some issues were found in the district’s internal controls and compliance with state guidelines.

The district is required to report student transportation data to the state twice a year, and the audit found some errors in that reporting that had to be corrected. Stroder suggested the district add a mechanism to check that data to make sure it’s reported correctly.

The district also didn’t have sufficient attendance documentation for homebound students. Homebound students are required to have five hours a week of instruction with a teacher to be counted as present, and the audit found the district did not always have the documentation to prove the five hours of instruction occurred.

“Either we didn’t have the documentation that we needed to support the amount of time that was spent with the student, or we over claimed what we were entitled to,” Stroder said.

In addition, two issues from last year’s audit were still ongoing.

Last year, the district’s child nutrition program was found to be noncompliant with the federal government’s requirement that the program not generate funds for the district.

The district is required to use any surplus funds for food services and the surplus cannot exceed three months of the district’s food service expenditures. Last year, the district had a surplus around $400,000 more than allowed by the federal government.

Stroder said the surplus had decreased to just over $200,000 above the allowable threshold. “We were in a hole last year, and we’re working our way out of it,” he said, adding that he expected the correction to take multiple years.

Stroder also recommended the district add procedures to make sure the district did not do business with companies suspended or disbarred from receiving federal funds. Districts are required to check any vendor that would receive more than $25,000 of federal funding, and Stroder found several instances of vendors not being checked last year.

• The board approved continuing the district’s transportation recruitment and retention plan for the upcoming school year, giving bonuses to bus drivers who stay with the district or are hired for the 2023-2024 school year.

Assistant Superintendent Keenan Kinder said the district was able to continue this program, which started last year, because the state continued to provide funding for transportation this year.

New bus drivers can receive $500. They would receive the first $300 after passing their driving test and driving 20 times. The new drivers would receive the remaining $200 in June if they drive on a regular basis for the remainder of the year.

Bus drivers who have driven for the district before will receive up to $1,350 at the end of the year if they drive at least 85% of the year and remain in good standing with the district. Drivers who are terminated, resign, retire or leave the district for any reason prior to the last day of school will forfeit their bonus.

Drivers who have driven two to four years can earn a $650 bonus, drivers who have driven five to seven years can earn a $750 bonus, drivers who have driven eight-10 years can earn a $750 bonus, drivers who have driven 11-20 years can earn a $1,100 bonus and drivers who have driven 21 or more years can earn the full $1,350 bonus.

The total cost of program is projected to be $44,300 for the 2023-2024 school year, compared with $59,700 this year. Kinder said the difference was due to there being newer drivers in the district and some drivers retiring.

“By offering this last year, some of our veteran drivers came back and kept on driving for another year,” Superintendent Scott Smith said. “This was very beneficial to our people and the district.”

• The board approved the lawn mowing bidding specs for law service bids. Lawn service bids can be submitted until Nov. 6. The district has approximately 107 acres across 11 sites that need to be mowed. The bids will be for the next two years, with the ability for the district to add a third year option.

• A committee of school board members Christine Warren, Sheila King and Kelly Waller was formed to nominate a candidate for the Missouri School Board Association John T. Belcher Scholarship.

Each district is allowed to nominate one graduating senior for consideration. The school board members will read essays from potential candidates and select whom to nominate from the district.

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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