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Assessment scores slip statewide

Krystle Wagner • Aug 30, 2018 at 7:00 AM

Just as the new school year gets underway, last spring’s state assessment results are out.

On Wednesday, the Michigan Department of Education released results of the assessment that students in grades 3-8 took this past spring. Statewide, the scores for the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP) dropped in 11 of 18 subjects, according to an Associated Press report.

Despite the drop in some subject areas, third- and fourth-grade scores in English language arts increased, which Department of Education officials attribute to the state’s investment and focus in early literacy and early childhood programs.

Three years ago, early literacy gaps were identified as a focus area for policy and program support for learned and established support to address the gaps.

According to www.mischooldata.org, 44 percent of third-graders perform at advanced or proficient levels, while 24.6 percent are considered partially proficient.

About 45 percent of fourth-graders are considered advanced or proficient, and 21.1 percent are partially proficient.

“The third- and fourth-graders in school today are the kids who are benefitting from the investments in early childhood education programs over the past several years,” said interim State Superintendent Sheila Alles in a press release. “We want to thank Gov. Snyder and the state Legislature for their persistent commitment to early childhood education that is beginning to bear fruit.”

Additionally, Alles said “more work needs to be done on English language arts in the upper grades, and math and social studies overall.”

Here are some local M-STEP results:

Grand Haven Area Public Schools

In general, the Grand Haven school district’s math proficiency is climbing and closely resembles reading proficiency, said Instructional Services Director Mary Jane Evink.

There was a 9 percent growth in sixth-graders performing at advanced or proficient levels. Evink said educators at White Pines Intermediate School have been intentional about improving math achievement.

Griffin and Ferry elementary schools, both Title 1 schools (defined as schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families), saw gains in three of the four tests. Lake Hills Elementary School, also a Title 1 school, had gains in two of the four tests, “while maintaining high proficiency in three of four tests.”

Grand Haven High School juniors saw growth in math and social studies. Evink noted that a “point of pride” for the district is the 72 percent proficiency on the English language arts portion of the SAT for GHHS juniors, a level that was maintained from the 2016-17 school year.

“Our high school and middle school have been teaching students those reading skills necessary to answer questions on challenging texts,” Evink said.

The district implemented a new reading curriculum for grades K-5 in the 2017-18 school year. Evink said that growing their practice with the Essential Literacy Practice will be a focus.

The district is also getting more books into students’ hands with the help of the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation. Evink said the district’s literacy coaches also work with the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District and state to outperform what’s expected, given the district’s rate of mobility, poverty and number of English learners.

To improve math proficiency, Evink said their efforts include working in grade-level teams to identify students who need additional support. They’re also working to align K-12 science to the new standards.

The district uses assessments throughout the year to monitor student progress and adjust instruction. Evink said the district’s educators are hard-working and responsible, and they want all students to achieve.

“We use the data from state assessments appropriately to guide decision making,” Evink said. “It is one of many assessments that give us that data.”

Spring Lake Public Schools

Math scores, particularly at the elementary level, increased in the Spring Lake district’s M-STEP report.

About 88 percent of Spring Lake third-graders are considered advanced or proficient, as well as 84 percent of fourth-graders and 77 percent of fifth-graders, according to the state assessment.

After aligning their curriculum to state standards, Curriculum Director Scott Ely said they also aligned resources to reflect what they were seeing in student progress and what areas need support. He said it’s nice to see their organized and targeted work paying off.

M-STEP data is one of the assessments educators use to monitor students and adjust instruction. The i-Ready assessment is used three times a year, while the M-STEP is one assessment on one day, Ely noted.

Overall, the Spring Lake district saw gains in most grades in English language arts.

Regardless of scores, Ely said they also focus on literacy, especially reading. The district received a grant from the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation to get targeted books to kids, and the Spring Lake Schools Foundation has also invested in literacy, Ely said.

To assess students, educators use i-Ready and Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment. Ely said that teachers look at data nearly every day and make adjustments to their instruction.

Educators in the district have also participated in the weeklong Teachers College Reading and Writing Projects Institute at Columbia University.

“The effort our staff puts into planning and doing the work is evident,” Ely said.

Walden Green Montessori School

Interim Co-Director Kim Bremer said they’re “pleased that our students overall continue to score above both statewide and demographically similar schools’ averages.”

“Even though standardized tests will never be able to assess the whole child, we at Walden Green value the data received from the M-STEP,” Bremer said, “and will carefully analyze the data to help prepare our Montessori environments and utilize it to ensure optimal learning experiences.”

West Michigan Academy of Arts and Academics

Academy Director Joanna Bennik said they experienced a slight increase in overall scores.

The public charter school offers an arts-integrated curriculum and plans to continue becoming stronger, Bennik said.

The school implemented the Units of Study curriculum for writing and reading, and implemented Math Expressions for K-5 math curriculum.

“We have a strong belief in creating a rock-solid, well-rounded foundation for our students,” Bennik said.

Educators “put in countless hours” during the summer for professional development and integrating the arts program into the curriculums.

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