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Berkley, Ferndale

February 27, 2013

MEAP scores display overall gains in Ferndale and Berkley

By Jeremy Selweski
C & G Staff Writer

FERNDALE/BERKLEY — In the second year of Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) testing since the state adopted higher cut scores, students in Ferndale and Berkley exhibited a number of modest improvements over last year’s results.

The scores were fairly consistent with those of MEAP scores across the state, according to data released by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) earlier this month, which tracked student achievement on the fall 2012 exam.

“These gains demonstrate that Michigan’s teachers and students are rising to the challenge of the more rigorous standards that were established last year,” said state Superintendent Mike Flanagan in a statement. “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.”

The “more rigorous standards” that Flanagan mentioned are in reference to the new cut scores that have had a major impact on the proficiency levels of Michigan school districts in the last couple years. Cut scores are the passing scores that distinguish between the four different levels of achievement on the MDE’s standardized tests: advanced, proficient, partially proficient and not proficient. In November 2011, the MDE released stricter, tougher cut scores that raised state proficiency standards and applied them retroactively to the previous four years of results on the MEAP test and the Michigan Merit Exam (MME).

Each fall, the MEAP test assesses Michigan students in a variety of core subject areas. Since 2005, the test has been assigned to the vast majority of students in grades three through nine. Grades three through eight are all tested in mathematics and reading. Fourth- and seventh-grade students also take the writing test, while fifth- and eighth-graders are tested in science, and sixth- and ninth-graders are tested in social studies. Social studies is the only subject in which ninth-grade students are tested.

Ferndale Public Schools
There were numerous areas of growth for Ferndale Public Schools on the fall 2012 MEAP test, particularly in the subjects of reading, math and writing. Many categories saw double-digit improvements in the percentage of students who either met or exceeded the statewide standards.

According to Barb Evoe, executive director of curriculum and instruction for the district, “The percentage rate of increase in most grade levels for Ferndale have increased in these content areas at rates greater than the state (averages), with the proficiency levels in Ferndale now intersecting with or greater than those of the state for all students,” she said in a written statement.

In reading, all grade levels except for fifth grade saw a boost in the number of students scoring proficiently compared to 2011. Third- and fourth-graders demonstrated significant increases — 17.4 percent and 16.1 percent, respectively — while seventh-graders showed a 9.5 percent increase. Evoe noted, however, that Coolidge Intermediate School and Ferndale Middle School continue to lag behind the statewide reading numbers, an issue that is currently being addressed at both schools.

Ferndale’s math scores displayed improvement at all grade levels, with all except for fifth grade growing at a faster rate than the rest of the state. The biggest gains occurred among seventh-graders, who increased their math proficiency by 15.1 percent, followed by fourth-graders at 13.3 percent and third-graders at 9 percent.

This year’s writing results also saw double-digit gains, with fourth-grade students and seventh-grade students both demonstrating increases of greater than 12 percent. Evoe noted that, because of this progress, the district’s fourth-graders are now outperforming the statewide writing averages by nearly a 9-point margin.

Still, there were a few major areas within Ferndale Schools that she identified as needing improvement, such as the overall test scores of economically disadvantaged and African-American students and the science and social studies scores of the district as a whole.

“We have seen continued growth in our (student) subgroups, but we still have an achievement gap that needs to be narrowed, even in math, reading and writing,” Evoe said. “This work will be articulated in building school improvement plans. It is also clear to us that science and social studies need to be areas of further concentration.”

The district’s 2012 science scores were especially low, with only 4.3 percent of fifth-graders and 6.8 percent of eighth-graders scoring proficiently. Both of these results were about 9 points below the statewide averages. The biggest decrease came from fifth-graders at John F. Kennedy Elementary School, whose scores dropped by about 13 percent.

Meanwhile, in social studies, just 16 percent of sixth-grade students and 12.7 percent of ninth-grade students were deemed proficient. Each of these scores came in at least 13 points behind the rest of the state. Again, the proficiency of Kennedy students saw the most significant change, with sixth-graders declining by about 19 percent.

But Evoe stated that Ferndale teachers and administrators are working to address these issues via a variety of strategies. “Through the implementation of data teams of teachers and principals working together during (the district’s) School Improvement Mondays, new instructional lead teachers at every grade level and rigorous school improvement plans developed by the instruction team,” she said, “the district is building a foundation for continued future growth.”

Berkley School District
The fall 2012 MEAP scores in the Berkley School District showed similar progress from the year before. In most categories, a greater number of students scored proficiently, and the district’s overall numbers continued to exceed those of the majority of Michigan school districts.

“We are very pleased with how well all of our students performed on this year’s test,” said Communications Supervisor Jessica Stilger. “We ended up scoring above the state and county averages in nearly every category and in nearly every grade level.”

While Stilger was proud of Berkley’s cumulative growth on the MEAP test, she was quick to add that “comparing from year to year is tricky because not only is it a different group of students (at each grade level), but it’s also a different test. We like to look at the same group of students over time; from one year to the next, how well is each student cohort improving?”

In reading, nearly every Berkley grade level increased its proficiency from 2011, with the exception of fourth and sixth grades. The biggest growth occurred among seventh-grade students, who boosted their scores by nearly 8 percent.

Math scores saw even greater improvement, with only grades four and six demonstrating slight declines. Third-graders showed significant growth in proficiency of nearly 12 percent, while fifth-, seventh- and eighth-graders also demonstrated considerable gains.

“We’re really happy with our math and reading scores, which are the highest level that we’ve achieved in the last eight years,” Stilger said. “That’s really because, over the past three years, we’ve become more focused on math and reading, and that extra work has shown in our test scores.”

Berkley’s writing results showed little change from the previous year, with fourth-graders displaying a small decrease and seventh-graders displaying a small increase.

Science scores were also largely unchanged, but like other districts across the state, the overall achievement levels were very low. Fifth-grade students demonstrated just 21.9 percent proficiency, while eighth-grade students earned 23.4 percent proficiency, both of which were actually well above the statewide averages.

In social studies, students faced similar challenges, although the numbers were better than those found in science. About 49.7 percent of sixth-graders performed proficiently on the test, compared to 36.4 percent of ninth-graders.

Stilger stressed that Berkley teachers and administrators are working to improve these scores as they prepare students for the statewide shift to the new Common Core curriculum beginning with the 2014-15 school year.

“We will look at making some tweaks to our instruction and professional development in order to bump up our scores in writing, science and social studies,” she said. “We’re also trying to make sure that there is a seamless transition to Common Core with all of our students and teachers. Right now, the most important thing is that we’re seeing continuous growth with our MEAP scores, so that is evidence that our teaching and learning are on the right track.”

To view the complete 2012 MEAP test results for Ferndale and Berkley schools, visit www.michigan.gov/mde or go to www.mischooldata.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Jeremy Selweski at jSelweski@candgnews.com or at (586)218-5004.