District earns recognition for success

Blake Becker

For the eighth straight year, Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education awarded the Columbia Public School district with the Annual Distinction Performance Award.
District Superintendent Chris Belcher believes the award is a significant achievement representing honor for schools, allowing the district freedom from certain state regulations and bureaucracy.
“This gives us some waivers, and if you’re hitting the distinction mark then you are given more freedom to try some things,” Belcher said. “You don’t have to have an on-site accreditation, which is a real time consuming issue because our numbers show that we’re making progress and improvements.”
DESE annually completes assessments of Missouri school districts to determine if they qualify for the ADPA. To qualify, a school district must meet at least 13 out of the 14 standards measured by the state including criteria like attendance, test scores and graduation rates,which can be difficult for some schools to meet as they do not always have the resources needed to accomplish, Belcher said.
“The dropout rate is a pretty high standard, and we struggle every year to stay within that mark, so that gives us a bar to shoot for,” Belcher said. “Same for attendance, which is 94 point something, which is pretty good attendance so we’re constantly looking for ways to make those numbers stay true.”
CPS anticipated winning the award this year by looking at high scores in the Missouri Assessment Program and the American College Testing students take every year. Scores had improved from years past, indicating a chance of winning the award.
“Our test scores were good, and we knew that the way they average them that we were going to hit [the standards] again [for] the MAP test and the ACT test,” Belcher said. For “all [of] the academic standards, we knew that we were on target even if we had a little dent with the [attendance] turnout.”
By Blake Becker