Ralls County R-II School administrators are all smiles after a recent performance review by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education showed another year of improvement for the district.

Ralls County R-II School administrators are all smiles after a recent performance review by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education showed another year of improvement for the district.

The district received 136 out of 140 points on its Annual Performance Report — a 22-point improvement from four years ago.

Many factors played into the high scores across the district. The team effort included maintaining strong communication channels with parents, rewards for good attendance and staying on top of changing technology and state standards. Superintendent Dr. Tara Lewis said staff celebrated the achievement with a bonfire and a hayride.

“We’re a happy group,” she said.

The Ralls County R-II school district received scores of 100 percent in Academic Achievement, Attendance and Graduation standards from DESE for 2016. These figures reflect an upward trend from 2014 to 2016, with the APR total points percentages rising from 85.7 percent in 2014 to 97.1 percent in 2016. Administrators and teachers practice various methods to guide students on the right path through each step of their education. One of the keys to success is consistent student attendance.

APRs measure school district success in five key areas to determine accreditation — MAP scores, MAP scores for a certain set of students, attendance, college/career readiness, and graduation rates. Almost every school district in the state scores high enough to achieve accreditation by DESE.

Ensuring consistent attendance

Ralls County Elementary Principal Dr. Natalie Gibson said students receive a charm each month for achieving perfect attendance. At the end of the school year, Sen. Brian Munzlinger’s office awards certificates for students who reach 97 percent attendance rates, and the school recognizes rates from 99 to 100 percent.

At Mark Twain Junior High School, Principal Delores Woodhurst said three levels of Tiger Code Cards offer rewards to the students, including free or half-price admission to school ball games and a trip to a local corn maze. Criteria for gold, blue and white cards include attendance, grade point average, limited tardies and no office referrals.

For Mark Twain Senior High School students, an attendance rate of 90 percent or higher is required for students to attend events like evening dances. In each school, staff members call parents if a student didn’t show up, keeping communication lines open to solve potential issues early. For some students, attendance begins to dip when they reach higher grade levels. High school staff members make sure to let parents know if a student is below the 90 percent attendance threshold, striving to turn poor attendance around as early as possible, Lewis said.

Staying the course to high school graduation

Seniors’ graduation success is bolstered by summer programs for making up credits, a credit-recovery classroom and counseling about the importance of achieving a high school diploma, Lewis said. Woodhurst said counseling efforts received a boost when Adria Palmer became the district’s third counselor. High school staff members stay in contact with parents to help ensure a path to graduation, too.

“We have to work together to get this done,” Lewis said.

Better graduation rates translated into a better score on that portion of the district’s APR in 2016, and accounted for the majority of the district’s overall improvement. In 2015, the district received 22.5 points out of the 30 in the graduation rate assessment. For 2016, the district achieved 30 out of 30 points.

Recognition and teamwork brings success

Woodhurst said Board of Education members sent signed letters to 323 students in the district who earned proficient or advanced scores on the Missouri Assessment Program. Substitute teacher Bob Sergent said that Ralls County R-II students are “farm kids” who are helpful and respectful, a sentiment Lewis echoed. She said the students in the district are “a little more laid-back” and demonstrate a dedicated work ethic.

“It was everyone working together to make this happen,” Woodhurst said.

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com