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Bloomfield Hills, Birmingham

February 19, 2013

BHS, BPS students continue to surpass statewide MEAP scores

By Robin Ruehlen and Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writers

Along with fall 2012 Michigan Educational Assessment Program test scores across the state, scores in the Bloomfield Hills School District and Birmingham Public Schools continue to show many gains, and all of the districts’ scores came in above state averages.

The annual MEAP tests are based on career and college-ready standards in third through ninth grade. Reading and math are tested each year in third through eighth grade, writing is tested in fourth and seventh grades, science is tested in fifth and eighth grades and social studies is tested in sixth and ninth grades.

Reading scores across BHS showed gains in third, fourth, seventh and eighth grades, and remained level at 88 percent proficiency in fifth and sixth grades. Writing scores were up for both fourth and seventh grades, at 70 percent proficiency in fourth grade and 83 percent in seventh grade.

District math scores were up in third, fourth, fifth and seventh grades, with the most notable gain in third grade, from 64 percent proficiency in 2011 to 71 percent in 2012. Seventh-grade math scores were up six points, from 73 percent proficiency in 2011 to 79 percent in 2012.

However, science scores in both fifth and eighth grade were on the decline, from 35 percent of fifth graders proficient in 2011 to 27 percent in 2012. In eighth grade, 41 percent tested proficient in 2011, which fell to 34 percent in 2012.

Ninth-graders, tested only in social studies, had an increase from 64 percent proficiency last year to 70 percent in the fall.

Laurie McCarty, assistant superintendent of learning services, said that although the district’s scores remain above the state average, “We clearly have more work to do.”

“Our staff is still in the process of analyzing possible reasons for the decline in this year’s scores as compared to last year, but it’s important to remember that this is a different group of students and a different test, both of which are possible factors,” McCarty said in an email.

“Science scores statewide tend to be low overall. We attribute this at least in part to the fact that we teach to a large number of science curriculum standards, not all of which are included on the test. It’s a bit of a guessing game as to whether the standards we chose to emphasize when teaching were the same ones used on the test.”

According to the Michigan Department of Education, all Michigan districts received student-level results back in December in order to allow teachers to review and analyze the results as early as possible and provided “targeted” instruction to students.

The MDE reported that, statewide, students showed gains in reading proficiency at all levels, especially in third and fourth grades. Mathematics also showed gains, the largest of those in third, fourth and fifth grade, and writing proficiency saw gains in both fourth and seventh grade.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan said in a press release that the gains demonstrate Michigan’s teachers and students are rising to the challenge of rigorous standards that were established last year.

“I am encouraged by the progress being made in Michigan schools and look forward to the continued efforts to help all students achieve at a higher level in all subjects,” he said.

McCarty noted that it might be time to “review the assessment, itself.”

“If the assessment doesn’t reflect the whole curriculum and the bulk of students aren’t scoring at or above proficiency, it may be that the test has some part in the results,” she wrote.

“We absolutely have work to do and we will review the results to see how they might influence our decisions, but we feel strongly about using a wide range of assessments to gather information and inform our decisions.” 

In Birmingham, students once again excelled beyond the state’s average scores this year overall, though there were a few minor shortcomings.

Ninth-grade Birmingham Public Schools students improved their 2012 social studies scores from the previous year, with an additional 6.6 percent of students meeting or exceeding proficiency standards. Seventh-grade students in the district were able to gain a nearly 6 percent increase in proficient math scores.

When compared to average scores around the state, BPS students showed superior marks in every category assessed, with the most impressive scores in seventh-grade math, where BPS students scored 76.1 percent, versus the state average of 38.4 percent. Eighth-grade math scores for BPS students were also noticeably higher than the state average, with 34.7 percent more students scoring proficient or above.

“Our students continue to do well, and we are very proud of them,” said BPS spokeswoman Marcia Wilkinson in a prepared statement.

Amidst the celebrating, however, Wilkinson said the district is recognizing the areas where students could have performed better, most notably in fifth-grade science, in which scores dropped more than 10 percent from 25.9 percent in 2011 to 15.4 percent in 2012. The district still exceeded the state average in that category by 2.3 percent.

“The MEAP scores are just one piece of the large assessment picture. We already knew our areas of focus, and we are currently reviewing curriculum in those areas,” Wilkinson added in the statement.

As if to prove Wilkinson’s point, just one day after the MEAP scores were released the Michigan State Schools of Character announced that Quarton Elementary and Berkshire Middle School were named State Schools of Character as part of the Character Education Partnership. West Maple Elementary, a past winner, also received the designation again for 2013.

Schools recognized by the CEP are evaluated for focus on character development that impacts academics, student behavior and school climate, according to a statement from the Michigan SSOC. All three schools will move on to be considered for the national award.

To view completed MEAP results by school and by district, go to www.michigan.gov/MDE and click on the Assessment Results tab under District and School Profiles.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Robin Ruehlen at rruehlen@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1105.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.