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Math Down, Reading Up

September 4, 2002
By: Amy Menefee
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Reading improvements were offset by a decline in math skills from 2002 statewide test of students released Wednesday by the Missouri Department of Education.

Results from the 2002 Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) tests show a drop in math scores at each of three grades tested.

While reading scores were stable and rising, the state Education Department called attention to math and science performance at the high school level.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Roseann Bentley, R-Springfield, attributed drops in math and science proficiency to lack of teacher expertise.

"Many teachers are not teaching in their fields," Bentley said. "The resulting teaching in the classroom is not as expert."

Sen. Ted House, D-St. Charles and a member of the committee, agreed.

"We have a shortage of teachers in Missouri high schools who have mastery of their subjects," House said. However, he did not place full responsibility with teachers.

"The most important factor that influences any kind of academic performance is the family," House said. "The vast weight of how a child does falls on the parents' shoulders."

Funding for primary and secondary education has increased for the past two years, while higher education took the brunt of 2002 budget cuts.

Orlo Shroyer, deputy commissioner of education, acknowledged a link between funding and test scores.

"With the increased dollars the state has given, we expect results - and we've seen those," Shroyer said. The department was pleased with reading scores overall.

As for math and science, Shroyer said local school districts will have to assess specific results and prioritize funds accordingly.

"One of the highest correlates to student performance is a highly qualified teacher in the field," Shroyer said. "We need to improve the pool of quality teachers in low-performing schools."

About 500,000 Missouri students in grades 3 and 4, 7 and 8 and 10 and 11 took the MAP tests. The Education Department will categorize regional results and provide information about race, disability and other factors in the upcoming weeks.