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July 17, 2013

BHS Michigan Merit Exam scores show improvement

Ferndale scores decline

By Joshua Gordon
C & G Staff Writer

BERKLEY — Scores reported for the Michigan Merit Exam from this past spring show Berkley High School students have improved their scores from last year and exceed the state averages in every subject, while Ferndale High School and University High School students’ scores have declined since last year in most subjects.

The MME assesses students in 11th grade each spring in reading, writing, math, science and social studies. The ACT college entrance exam is also factored into the test results.

BHS students improved in all five subjects, as well as improving the average ACT score from 20.7 in 2012 to 21.4 this year. The state average on the ACT was 19.7 in 2013.

Mary Beth Fitzpatrick, the Berkley School District assistant superintendent, said district officials like to look at the scores over the course of a few years to study the trends, and everyone has been pleased with the improvements.

“Different students take the exams each year, and as a three-year trend, we are seeing improvement in reading, writing, science and social studies,” Fitzpatrick said. “We have an all-district focus on achievement, which has included adjustments in the younger grades and programs to better prepare students for secondary content. As a district, we have consistent professional development, which often focuses on student achievement data.

“In addition, BHS has high course expectations and continues to offer access for all students to high-level curriculum.”

Student performance on the MME falls into four categories — advanced, proficient, partially proficient and not proficient. Students must score either proficient or advanced to be considered proficient in a certain subject.

The percentage of BHS students who scored either proficient or advanced had a marginal increase in all subjects, with the biggest coming in social studies with a 9 percent increase from 2012. Reading improved by 2 percent, writing by 3 percent, science by 4 percent and math by 5 percent.

Not only did the percentage of BHS students who scored proficient or advanced rise, but the gap between the BHS percentage and the statewide percentage also grew. BHS has a double-digit percentage gap in all subjects except reading, where 9 percent more BHS students are getting the scores they need over the state average.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan said in prepared remarks that there has been a four-year upward trend in scores, despite statewide scores dropping a little this year.

“Over the past four years, more high school students are being taught challenging content and are becoming career- and college-ready,” Flanagan said. “This upward trend is good news for students, educators and our state. While assessment score fluctuations are not unusual when comparing different classes of students, results show the need to continue the state’s strong commitment to high standards.”

At FHS, the percentage of students who scored proficient or advanced declined in every subject except math, where the number stayed at 22 percent. The FHS percentage is also lower than the state average in every subject, while the average ACT score this year was 18, also down from 2012.

“Although it’s unfortunate this year’s FHS scores declined in every area, we do expect to see fluctuations from year to year, depending on each student cohort,” said Stephanie Hall, director of pupil services and community relations for the Ferndale School District. “When educators look at our progress, as the Michigan Department of Education does, we analyze trends. The FHS slope has been upward over the past four years.”

The UHS percentages stayed consistent this year, with declines in writing and math, but increases in reading and social studies. The UHS average ACT score also improved this year, from 16.7 in 2012 to 17 in 2013.

To help improve test scores going forward at FHS, Principal Lisa Williams said the school would align the focus on test preparation during the 2013-14 school year.

“FHS has established a new schoolwide testing plan for grades nine to 11 that will impact every student,” Williams said. “Once each month, students will spend time on Monday in work sessions focused on test-taking skills and strategies, as well as math and reading specifically tailored to each student’s needs.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Joshua Gordon at jgordon@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1077.