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M-STEP scores show modest gains

Local superintendents react

MARQUETTE — Third- and fourth-grade English language arts scores on the 2019 Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress showed modest gains for the second straight year, the Michigan Department of Education reported.

English language arts scores by Michigan sixth-graders also increased, as did mathematics scores for students in third, fifth and sixth grades.

“We appreciate the gains made this year in our early grades,” said state Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice in a news release. “Focus and attention on early childhood education and early literacy are beginning to bear fruit, and continued efforts in these areas will keep Michigan moving forward.”

The online M-STEP assessment system replaced the paper-and-pencil, 44-year-old Michigan Education Assessment Program.

Still, results could be better. For instance, only 45% of third-graders in the state were proficient or better in ELA.

However, some local school superintendents were pleased with their district’s results.

“We are proud of our students’ scores in the third grade from last spring,” said Bryan DeAugustine, NICE Community Schools superintendent, in an email. “In third-grade English language arts, 71% of our kids are proficient or advanced, and in third-grade math, 67% of our students are proficient or advanced.”

He believes the district’s early elementary grades are trending in the right direction.

At the 11th-grade level, the average SAT composite score from the spring was 1024, he said, with the state average being 985.

“That score shows positive academic achievement in our high school,” DeAugustine said. “As always, we have work to do, but we are proud of our students, faculty and staff.”

Also in the NICE district, third-grade math scores showed a rate of 67% proficiency or higher compared with the state’s 47%. NICE eighth-grade ELA results for being proficient or higher were 76% compared with the state’s 62%. For eighth-grade math in the NICE district, the result was 43% showing proficiency or higher compared with the state’s 41%.

“Third grade measures our achievement in early elementary,” DeAugustine said. “Eighth grade measures our achievement as our kids head into our high school. Eleventh grade gives us a final achievement snapshot as our kids head toward their senior year and graduation.”

Dan Skewis, superintendent at Negaunee Public Schools, said in an email the district pays attention to several comparisons when the M-STEP and SAT results are released.

One is how NPS scores compare to the state average, he said, and another is how the district compares to schools within the Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Service Agency region.

“Most importantly we look at individual student progress,” Skewis said. “Fortunately, after breaking down the results from the 2018-19 tests, all three comparisons are positive and ones we are proud of.

“The next step is to look at areas where we need to improve, figure out where this information needs to be covered and then decide if we need to tweak different lessons and/or change when the material is taught during the school year.”

Skewis said district staff realizes the M-STEP is a small indicator of NPS success.

“There are several other factors, including other assessments, that give us a better idea of where we stand as a district,” he said.

Ishpeming Public Schools Superintendent Carrie Meyer, Ishpeming High School Principal Seth Hoopingarner and Birchview Elementary School Principal Matthew Byce issued this response regarding M-STEP results.

“Our high school students have traditionally performed very well on state standardized tests,” they said. “Our students continue to maintain good scores, with fluctuation a bit each year.

“This year our combined scores reflect that 44% of our students are proficient or advanced, which is above the state average of all schools, and higher than schools of similar characteristics.”

In kindergarten through eighth grade, the district has made “conscious efforts” to improve students’ English language arts and mathematics scores over the last couple of years, the statement read.

“We are pleased that our scores continue to increase in the area of language arts and mathematics,” the educators said. “Our Birchview Elementary building has a combined score, which reflects that 48% of our students are proficient or advanced, which is 6% above the state average of all schools, and 7% higher than schools of similar characteristics.

“This score indicates that we have increased the number of students at proficient or advanced by 16% since the 2017-18 school year.”

The scores, they said, also reflect significant progress made in language arts and mathematics.

“A benefit of state testing is that it provides an additional tool to target areas of improvement moving forward,” they said. “Our district plans to use our data to continue making curriculum and instruction improvements in efforts to continue the trend of progress and maintaining our tradition of excellence for the Ishpeming Public Schools district.”

Marquette Area Public Schools Superintendent Bill Saunders said he’s proud of district teachers’ work in covering the entire curricula in the weather-shortened year of 2018-19.

“Despite missing 12 days of instruction, MAPS elementary students outperformed state averages on the math and English tests by an average of nearly 13 points per test taken,” Saunders said in an email. “We have outstanding students and staff who take this challenge seriously and who continually give their best efforts, and it certainly shows in the scores achieved.”

Gwinn Area Community Schools didn’t see a great deviation in scores from prior school years, said GACS Superintendent Sandy Petrovich in an email.

“Initial review and research indicates similar scores from previous years in most areas,” she said. “In looking at our cohort groups of students over the past four years, we find that students as a district grade-level group have improved in the assessment scores as they move through the grades.

“We will continue to address individual student needs as we drill down into the data. We also use the scores to look at our core curriculum and ensure fidelity in teaching the standards. These scores are a part of the data we use as we triangulate data to improve the instructional focus for the district.”

For details on school results, visit mischooldata.org.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.