April 21, 2009

MEAP results mixed throughout county

Despite continuing financial situation, AGS outperforms AE, SSC


ARENAC COUNTY — Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) test results were made available to school districts earlier this month and in Arenac County, the AuGres-Sims School District (AGS) was the star pupil, meeting statewide proficiency standards in 23 of 28 categories, while the Arenac Eastern School District (AE) me the standards in only two categories and Standish-Sterling Community Schools District (S-S) meeting slightly less than half of the proficiency standards.

According to www.michigan.gov, in the Fall 2008, all third through eighth graders were tested in reading, writing, math and ELA (English-Language-Arts) while two additional subjects, science and social studies, were administered to fifth and eighth graders and sixth and ninth graders, respectively, rounding out the material covered by the MEAP test.

“Third grade saw an improvement across the board,” said S-S Director of Instruction Roger Anderson. “Our fourth grade was down a bit as well as seventh and eighth grade.”

“We’re pretty happy,” AGS Superintendent Gary Marchel said. “Our students are working harder and so are our teachers.”

“This year’s results are definitely an off-year,” AE Guidance Counselor and Curriculum Director Allen Pauly said.

All three school representatives say writing is the least satisfactory subject.

“We’ve been working on writing,” Pauly said. “We thought we’d show gains. That was particularly disappointing.”

“Three of our five areas below state average came from writing,” Marchel said. “We are improving, just not seeing as big of improvements as we’d like.”

“An area that sticks out was fourth grade writing,” Anderson said. He added fourth graders across throughout the state scored only averaged 44-percent proficiency. “It could be the test but overall we didn’t perform well in writing.

“I’m happy to say our third graders met expectations in all areas.”

Each district prepares differently for the MEAP, but all say they are continuing to evaluate the results to prepare for next year’s MEAP.

At S-S, Anderson says no special crash courses are administered to prepare for the MEAP, instead data is analyzed in subgroups and programs to improve problem areas are implemented in the district.

“This is our second year using the DIBELS assessment tool,” he said. “It’s a dip-sticking method to gauge reading skills from kindergarten on. When we see a student struggling, we can quickly provide instruction. It’s starting to pay dividends.”

He also says the state seems to be following a few trends.

“Girls write better than boys,” Anderson said. “And we’re starting to see an evening out in math. Traditionally, boys were better.”

Anderson says constantly working on alignment with solid curriculum and instruction is key.

“There’s a lot of data analysis and in areas of concern, we try to figure out strategies to help alleviate the problem,” he said.

At AGS, Marchel says the school tries to increase its scores over last year’s and doesn’t particularly focus on meeting state averages.

“Every year, we work on all of them (subjects),” Marchel said. “Until we have 100-percent in every area, we can improve.

“You have to remember (when looking at MEAP results) they’re just a snapshot of a year’s worth of work. We’re already looking at these results and we’re waiting for MME (Michigan Merit Examination) scores to sit down as a team and see what we can do.”

AE has taken measures to close the gap by hiring roving assistants for math and writing and a reading coach, says Pauly.

“We tried to improve 5-percent, across the board,” Pauly said. “In my opinion, we have lots of work to do.”

He added AE uses MEAP-like testing formats throughout the year and this summer, will reintroduce a summer school program for students who tested low in the MEAP.

When it comes to the positives and negatives of MEAP testing, officials had mixed reactions.

Anderson says he believes instruction pertaining to MEAP-specific results isn’t crucial, because he says the gap from April to October is too long.

“The results basically give you a global picture of day-to-day, marking period-to-marking period,” the S-S instruction director said. “It can be a punitive thing. You can be labeled as a failing school for having one area fail to make the cut score.

“A good point though, is that the MEAP focuses on content expectations.”

Marchel says he thinks MEAP testing helps schools keep curriculum standard and consistent.

“All schools are doing the same curriculum at the same level,” he said. “That makes it easier for students to transfer to another school hassle-free.

“Now, it’s not a situation where one school has kids learning dinosaurs in third, fourth and fifth grade and another does it in sixth. They all teach dinosaurs at the same level.”

Pauly explained the test helps parents to see how well a student is performing compared to state averages as well as being a good indicator for long-term understanding.

The officials say they hope to improve upon state averages in the following years and are always looking for new ways to do so.

“We’ve made adequate yearly progress and we hope to continue to make progress,” Anderson said. “Doing a one shot test, there are a lot of factors and we want the kids to do their best, but we don’t force the it on them all the time.”

“We’re continuing to try and improve,” Pauly said. “We’re looking into a math coach and some other programs.”

“You hear about cuts everywhere,” Marchel said. “We’ve lost some staff, but the teachers and students continue to work hard.”

Click here for a table of MEAP results for all three schools.


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