Local districts discuss M-STEP scores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published September 12, 2017

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — While M-STEP scores are disappointing educators across the state, local school districts say there are a few bright spots in the standardized assessment scores given to students each spring.

In South Lake Schools, John Thero, director of instruction and assessment, said that there was good news for the district’s fourth-graders, who improved in English language arts and math from the 2015-16 school year.

“We grew in 18 out of the 32 assessments (accounting for assessments at different schools); we did better than we did the previous year as a percent proficient,” he said. “We’re always happy to see growth.”

He pointed out that fourth-graders at Elmwood Elementary improved their ELA scores by 13 percent; Avalon Elementary improved by more than 10 percent. Sixth-grade ELA scores improved at South Lake Middle School by 10 percent, and eighth grade went up by 11 percent.

Thero said the district also saw “some nice gains in math.”

The M-STEP is a one-time assessment, he said, that they use to determine where to improve curriculum. The district uses other tools to identify students for intervention, he added.

“Overall, for South Lake, we were pretty pleased with the progress that we demonstrated on the test,” he said. “We’re kind of bucking the trend in the state.”

According to the Michigan Department of Education, Michigan students showed progress in math and social studies, but decreased in all grades but fifth grade in English language arts.

Whereas in 2015, 50 percent of third-graders across Michigan were proficient in English language arts, that number dropped to 44 percent for 2017. Similar drops were seen in other elementary and middle grades across the state, with the exception of fifth grade, which increased from 48.7 percent proficient in 2015 to 51.1 percent proficient in 2017.

Ninety-eight percent of Michigan schools took the assessment online this year and, of the 18 grade-subject combinations tested, more students were proficient or advanced in 10 of those. Compared to 2015, more students achieved proficiency in social studies in grades five, eight and 11; in math for grades three, five, six, seven and eight; in 11th-grade science; and in fifth-grade English language arts.

In Lakeview Public Schools, Assistant Superintendent Tracy Van Peeren said they are pleased with the district’s results.

“Out of the possible 18 areas we receive scores on, Lakeview is above county averages in 17 out of 18 areas,” she said in an email interview. “We are also above state averages in 15 out of the 18 areas, with us only being one or two points below the state in those ... areas.”

Van Peeren said that Lakeview was 10 points above state and county averages in ELA for fifth-graders and math for sixth-graders, as well as 20 points above county and state averages in fifth-grade math.

“When examining the past three years of our state assessment data, you will find that we’ve had consistent performance in all areas over the three-year period,” she said. “We continue to be performing well, with slight dips and gains in various areas, with overall growth across the board.”

She said the district is also moving some students into partial proficiency or meeting expectations while still maintaining the students who were previously meeting or exceeding state expectations.

“This is evidence that the hard work of our students and staff is paying off,” she said.

Like other districts across the state, Lakeview has some subgroups that do not meet achievement targets, but Van Peeren said they continue to address those achievement gaps.

“The professional development, solid instructional practices and academic interventions the district has put into place are having a positive impact on student achievement,” she said.

In Lake Shore Public Schools, English language arts proficiency dropped from 56.1 percent for third-graders in 2016 to 41.5 percent in 2017. In fourth grade, there was an increase of 2 percent from 2016, with 49.2 percent of fourth-graders proficient in the subject in 2017. However, fifth-graders dropped from 57.5 percent to 51.7 percent proficient between the 2016 and 2017 scores. There was also a large drop of nearly 13 percent for sixth-graders in the district between the two years and a 9 percent drop in eighth-grade English language arts scores. Seventh-grade scores were flat.

Lakeview Public Schools fourth-graders’ English language arts scores dropped by 12 percent, while fifth-graders improved from 58 percent proficient in 2016 to 61.2 percent proficient this year. Sixth-graders improved by 2 percent, while seventh-graders saw a drop from 53.7 percent proficient in 2016 to 46.5 percent proficient this year. Scores also fell in eighth grade, from 54.4 percent to 49.5 percent proficient. Third-grade scores were relatively flat, with 48 percent proficiency in 2017.

Nearly 38 percent of South Lake third-graders were proficient in English language arts in 2017, compared with 42.2 percent in 2016; fourth-graders improved to 41.3 percent from 38.4 percent; fifth-grade scores were relatively flat; and seventh-graders dropped slightly to 35.3 percent from 39.4 percent. Sixth-graders, however, jumped from 24 percent proficient in 2016 to 34 percent proficient in 2017, and eighth-graders saw similar improvement, from 34.2 percent to 45 percent. 

“We are definitely following trends, but that isn’t something that we’re satisfied with,” said Rachelle Wynkoop, assistant superintendent of academic and student services in Lake Shore Public Schools.

She said that although the district followed the downward trend in English language arts proficiency, it also followed the upward trend of math and social studies scores.

Now, she said, Lake Shore will be looking at the data and what it shows the district, evaluating current student support systems and looking at what else can be put in place to help students achieve. In addition, Wynkoop said that the district will be looking at best practices across the district and trying to align them so that students in different buildings are not receiving different interventions and support.

“We take that data and we know that our students are more than a test score on a given day,” she said. “We’ll look at our curriculum and instruction and make the necessary changes so that our students can continue to succeed.”