By Zachary Manning
Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Reporter
DEWITT — DeWitt Public Schools are above the Michigan averages in most academic categories such as graduation rate, average ACT score, and teacher effectiveness, but they have some work to do when it comes to the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress or M-STEP.
“DeWitt is a good community and we have kids in general that have a desire to do well in school,” said John Deiter, superintendent of DeWitt Public Schools. “We are able to recruit some of the best teachers in the area.”
Smaller cities such as DeWitt are able to be successful in academics, because of size. The schools are able to be more connected to parents, students, and everyone else in the community.
“There is an opportunity for the community to be closely connected to the schools. There is a more personalized and differentiated instruction,” said Corey Drake, associate professor in the Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University. “They can support a full K-12 system and they aren’t too large to lose personal connection.”
DeWitt’s graduation rate has remained steady over the years, but it has been consistently over the Michigan state average according to the Michigan Department of Education or MDE. In 2014, DeWitt High School had a four-year graduation rate of 96 percent, which is well above the Michigan average of 78 percent as well as other schools in the area such as Haslett. In 2014, Haslett had a four-year graduation rate of 91 percent. DeWitt schools have a lot of opportunities for kids and administrators want to help kids graduate.
“We allow more opportunities for students. We provide opportunities for students to get through. We have a program for example that helps at risk kids,” said Deiter.
The school not only has a high graduation rate, but it also has a good average ACT score. In 2015, according to the MDE, DeWitt High School’s average ACT score was 22, which is higher than the Michigan average of 19.9 and the national average of 21.2. DeWitt tries to balance the curriculum to help students get the content they need for these tests, but also stay in line with base standards.
“We make sure the curriculum is aligned to the base standards. We try to have a balanced curriculum to balance the content students need,” said Deiter.
Teachers are a huge part of what makes DeWitt Public Schools stay above the Michigan averages. According to the MDE, 100 percent of teachers in DeWitt Public Schools were effective in the 2014-15 school year. The 100 percent effectiveness rate is higher than the 97 percent rate statewide.
“I have a great staff who are highly skilled and have a great passion for what they do in and out of the classroom. They strive to get better and spend a lot of time in each other’s classrooms through Learning Walks and talk about best instructional practices,” said Jody McKean, principal of DeWitt High School. “We do a lot of professional development with our staff pertaining to student engagement and questioning techniques.”
The MDE created a new test for spring 2015 called the M-STEP. According to the MDE website, the test is designed to measure student growth. Grades three through eight are tested on mathematics and language arts. Grades four and seven are tested in science and grades five and eight are tested in social studies as well.
The state hopes to achieve a proficiency rate of 85 percent in each subject by 2024. As of 2015, DeWitt schools were below the 85 percent line in every subject.
In 2015, according to the MDE, third graders had a proficiency percentage of 57.3 in mathematics, which was the highest of all grade levels tested in DeWitt Public Schools.
According to the MDE website, in 2015, seventh graders were the most proficient with a percentage of 73 in language arts. The sixth grade had the lowest proficiency in language arts with 59.3 percent.
Only fourth and seventh graders were tested in science, but both grade levels in DeWitt were below 50 percent proficiency in 2015. According to the MDE, fourth graders were at 21 percent and seventh graders were at 34 percent proficiency.
In social studies only fifth and eighth graders were tested in 2015. According to the MDE, eighth graders tested out at 53.2 percent proficiency and fifth graders were at 27.7 percent proficiency.
While DeWitt schools are below the 2024 target line in every subject, they do have time to increase their proficiency in each subject.
The future of DeWitt Public Schools is all about staying innovative and providing the best opportunities for students to succeed.
“We want to push the thinking and the learning that goes on and not just focus on the tests. It’s our goal to create a well-rounded experience,” said McKean.
“I want to see us continue to innovate, stay on the cutting edge, and provide opportunities for students to learn and apply knowledge for real world applications,” said Deiter.