This week the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released Annual Performance Report (APR) scores for Missouri school districts. These scores are intended to provide an at-a-glance picture of a district’s performance and are, understandably, of great interest to parents and policymakers. Due to the effects of the pandemic, this is the first time APR scores have been issued since 2019.
What is an APR score?
DESE uses APR scores to determine school districts’ accreditation status. APRs are calculated based on how districts meet the standards laid out in the Missouri School Improvement Plan (MSIP).
Missouri has just begun the transition between the MSIP5 standards and the new MSIP6 standards. This year’s APR scores (MSIP6) use a different scale than last year’s (MSIP5). Because they are new, by law they cannot be used to determine accreditation or renewal status this year. Click here to learn more about APR scores and the new Missouri standards.
Who receives an APR score? Are APR scores accurate?
APR scores are assigned to both Missouri school districts and charter schools. APRs are specifically designed to measure performance and assign accreditation status at K-12 school districts. Charter schools, like Kairos Academies, provide a very different educational experience than a traditional school district. Although charter schools receive an APR score– charters do not receive an accreditation status from those scores. Instead, Missouri law holds charter schools accountable through a short-term performance contract that must be met and renewed regularly by the school’s sponsoring agency. In this case, Kairos must meet performance standards laid out by our sponsor, the Missouri Charter Public School Commission (MCPSC).
Charter schools can also serve varying grade levels meaning some APR measurements are not applicable. For example, a charter school that serves only elementary school students could have their APR score calculated almost entirely based on administrative processes like audits and attendance–not on any academic test results. Likewise, a school that serves high schoolers can earn additional points for end of course exams and graduation rates.
Those distinct differences in grade levels mean APRs may fail to paint a complete picture of student achievement and academic growth for a charter that does not serve students in every K-12 grade-level. Click here to learn more about the limitations of APR scores.
What does Kairos’ Sponsor Say About APR Scores?
MCPSC is the state agency charged with monitoring Kairos’ academic performance and adherence to our charter agreement. Meeting our sponsor’s performance standards and accountability measures ultimately determines whether or not Kairos is able to continue to operate.
MCPSC sent a letter to DESE, dated March 1, 2023, which included the following feedback on the new MSIP6 standards and APR scores:
“...the MSIP6 Comprehensive Guide and the Annual Performance Report seem to ignore the way charter schools operate under state law.”
“The Department created a separate APR for K-8’s, because the K-12 APR misrepresented K-8 MSIP accountability. Because charter schools are not subject to accreditation, process and resource standards, continuous improvement and accreditation sections of the new APR do not apply and misrepresent charter accountability.”
“...we request that charters assessing 8th grade students using the grade appropriate assessment are not unfairly penalized 10 points.” (Note: This specifically affected Kairos’ score because we offered Algebra I last year to our 8th graders but did not administer the high school Algebra I end of course exam; costing us 10 out of 88 possible points).
“...the Department is well aware of the performance differences of some socio-economic groups. In fact the Department has provided a special category and different performance expectations for the ‘student group.’ Sadly, the Department has chosen to weigh the performance of the ‘student group’ at 6 points, or half the points as ‘all students.’ For LEAs with a majority of its student population classified in the student group, their student group will be, if not exactly, nearly the same as the all student group…it should not continue to misrepresent performance success of these students and the schools that serve them by only awarding half the points.” (Note: LEA stands for Local Education Agency. An LEA is the public entity authorized to operate a school/schools such as an entire school district or a single charter school).
Bright Spots at Kairos
State MAP scores, the truest measure of academic growth we have, place Kairos Academies among the top four LEAs in the city of St. Louis. Despite the barriers our students face on a daily basis and the ongoing effects of the pandemic, the number of Kairos students rated “proficient” and “advanced” continues to grow significantly each year. Our students' academic growth has been independently recognized by Saint Louis University’s PRiME Center and Kairos is proud to be a 2022 PRiME Growth Award Winner.
Kairos’ APR score reflects that we earned all points possible for our Improvement Plan, our Climate and Culture Survey, our Financial Audit, and our annual Board Report. Our APR score also reaffirms Kairos’ compliance with state and federal law–including around teacher certification. We are incredibly proud of the work our educators, mentors, and school leaders have done to build a culture of affirmation, accountability, and continuous improvement.
Where Kairos is Looking to Improve
While Kairos’ student growth remains strong, we are continuing to evaluate every academic metric available (including APR, MAP results, and our own NWEA test scores) to boost our student proficiency and ensure their college and career readiness. This school year the Kairos leadership team has made significant investments in teacher coaching, accountability, and compensation. School leaders are already implementing more robust coaching supports for new teachers; while high-performing teachers are empowered to personalize their professional development and receive automatic tuition reimbursement towards advanced degrees. Beginning next school year, Kairos teachers’ base salaries will start at $50,000 for certified teachers (an $8.5K increase over this year) with additional opportunities to earn even more based on classroom performance and student growth. Click here to refer a teacher to Kairos.
Kairos Academies is reimagining education for the 21st century. Our unique model of personalized learning, student agency, and one-on-one mentorship is empowering students who typically start several years behind to catch up to “proficient” and “advanced” status. Kairos recognizes that boosting student proficiency is a marathon–not a sprint. Our MAP test data confirms that Kairos students have overcome numerous obstacles and continue to grow each year. Strong academic and social-emotional supports are critical because, combined, they prepare students for a meaningful life full of choice and opportunity. Kairos’ new leadership team will continue to make the investments and continuous adjustments necessary to ensure our students receive the personalized, rigorous education they deserve.