Schools work to improve lagging test scores

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Capital News Service 

LANSING – Spring 2023 achievement scores of elementary school students across Michigan rose after a large dip a year earlier. 

Education officials say they hope new spending on tutoring and literacy instruction will continue the trend.

The Department of Education reported that math proficiency among students in grades 3–7 increased from 33.3% to 34.7%. Fifth-graders showed the biggest gain of 1.9%.

Big Rapids Public Schools is one district that saw such an increase. 

For example, 28 students in fifth-grade were advanced or proficient in mathematics for the 2021-22 Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress, known as M-STEP. According to MI School Data reports, that number rose to 56 students in the 2022-23 test.

Big Rapids Superintendent Tim Haist said preparation for the standardized tests is based on students’ learning levels.

“Our team of staff monitors each individual student’s academic progress with various formative assessments throughout the year,” he said.

Haist said he’s proud of the district’s progress and “will continue to analyze the data to see where our strengths and our weaknesses are.” 

M-STEP covers mathematics, English language arts, science, and social studies.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Rice said there needs to be a better focus on students who aren’t as proficient in certain subjects.

“Some of our kids need more time and more support — more in school, more in tutoring, more in mentoring, more after school, more during the summer,” Rice said in a press release.

Mary Martin, the board president of Baldwin Community Schools, said her district participates in a program called Read 180, which helps students who are struggling with reading. The district saw a small increase in its literature scores.

“The teachers are taking the initiative to work with the kids more. I believe in the personal development that we have now put in place and continue to use what’s helping our scores to improve,” she said.

Martin said the district’s scores not only show student development, but the staff’s development too. 

“I believe there’s always room for improvement. We will continue to serve and get more personal development for all of our staff,” she said.

The Education Department said the recently passed state school aid budget will help improve scores. It includes $140 million to address literacy and $150 million for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s MI Kids Back on Track program for tutoring children who are below grade level in reading or math.

Martin said the Baldwin district has the personnel to continue its improvements.

“What sets us apart is that we’re really hammering, getting our kids educated, no matter what facet of life they come from. It takes special people to work with these students.”

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