MARQUETTE - Michigan Educational Assessment Program scores released this week show a marked improvement for most area schools, one year after more stringent standards were implemented by the Michigan Department of Education.
The more rigorous cutoff scores adopted by the state require students to provide correct answers approximately 65 percent of the time to pass the state test rather than the 39 percent previously required.
One year ago, area schools saw dramatic drops in MEAP scores as a result. However, this year, most area schools - along with schools across the state - saw improvement in scores across the board, though math scores continue to be on the low side.
NICE Community Schools Superintendent Bryan DeAugustine - whose fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students showed improvement in math scores but still show less than 40 percent of students are proficient or advanced - said the math portion of the test is typically more difficult than other portions.
"The math test is quite complicated," he said. "I encourage people to go online. You can take a look at some of the released items from the state. It's interesting to sit down and try to work your way through some of the items our students complete during the course of that testing."
Negaunee Public Schools fared the best in math scores out of districts in Marquette and Alger counties, with fifth, sixth and seventh grades all surpassing 50 percent of students who are proficient or advanced.
Negaunee Superintendent Jim Derocher said the improved scores reflect the hard work of his staff, which implemented a new program to teach mathematical fundamentals to elementary students.
"I attribute our scores to our staff and their diligence in looking at the curriculum and looking at the holes we have within our curriculum in order to fill in the gaps," Derocher said.
However, Derocher, like many area superintendents, said there is still room for improvement.
"We've got mixed results," he said. "We're above average in some areas - especially our reading scores - but we're still struggling in some areas of our math, which we've been working on. But, overall, I think our scores are great when compared to state scores."
Gwinn Community Schools Superintendent Kim Tufnell said she was happy to see the district's writing scores improve.
"in the past year, we placed a great emphasis on writing and we're very pleased to see the results of those efforts," Tufnell said. "Every year, we see areas where we're thrilled or we're disappointed and we always know there's room for improvement. We'll continue to analyze the data and adjust instruction."
DeAugustine said his district is working to improve teaching methods, targeting three specific areas: lesson relevance for the students, differentiation of instruction to help students of all types learn and logical sequencing of programming throughout the district.
"There's definitely areas for improvement and we have our work cut out for us," DeAugustine said. "We're going to do what we can to refine our instruction delivery and get through to our individual students and to the students as a large collective."
For a more complete look at area MEAP scores, visit www.michigan.gov/mde.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.