By GREYSON STEELE
Argus-Press Staff Writer
SHIAWASSEE COUNTY — According to recently released statewide testing results, Chesaning Union Schools, Ovid-Elsie Area Schools and New Lothrop Public Schools are among the top performers in the area.
The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) recently released results from the 2019 Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP), including for schools in the Shiawassee County area.
Chesaning students were proficient in all subjects, except fifth-grade math, where they fell 1 percent below the state average. Chesaning posted the top area proficiency in five categories: third-grade math, sixth-grade math, seventh-grade math, and fifth-and-eighth-grade social studies.
“We have high expectations for ourselves, high expectations for our kids, so we are happy to see that all of the hard work has paid off. It’s been years in the making. Things like this don’t happen overnight,” Chesaning Superintendent Mike McGough said. “We look at a lot of student data, and if we see kids that aren’t mastering the standard, we provide an intervention. Our elementary in particular really does a good job and gets those kids early on so if we’re seeing some issues with reading or math we can jump on those right away and address them.”
The M-STEP was first rolled out statewide in the spring of 2015. The assessment is designed to gauge how well students are meeting standards in English, math, social studies and science.
The most recent testing was completed this past spring during the 2018-19 school year, as students in grades three through seven were assessed in reading and math. The social studies test was given in grades five and eight.
Science results were not released because of an ongoing field-test of the new science assessment, according to the MDE.
In addition to Chesaning’s strong showing, other area school districts also fared well.
Ovid-Elsie students had the top area proficiency in third-grade English (60 percent), fourth-grade math (66 percent) and fifth-grade math (58 percent). O-E was the only district in Shiawassee County to have English scores at or above 60 percent in three grade levels (grades three, six and seven).
Ovid-Elsie Superintendent Ryan Cunningham said he was extremely pleased.
“We don’t ‘teach to the test,’ but we do look hard at what is being assessed and then pull that back into our professional development,” Cunningham said via email. “I believe it (the scores) validates what we have invested time, money and resources into. We have worked hard to make sure our students and staff have the tools they need to be successful.”
New Lothrop recorded 74-percent proficiency in seventh-grade English, the only district in Shiawassee County to score above 70 percent in any category. New Lothrop also led area districts in sixth-grade English (63 percent), and was proficient in all categories except fifth-grade math, where student scores fell approximately 4 percent below the state average.
Laingsburg Community Schools scored above the state average in 11 of 12 categories, leading all area districts in fifth-grade English (62 percent proficiency). Byron Area Schools recorded the top proficiency in fourth-grade English (65 percent), and scored above the state average in six categories.
Durand students were above the state average in five categories, while Perry and Morrice scored above in three categories each.
Two area districts — Owosso and Corunna — failed to score above the state average in English, math and social studies last spring. Owosso students were the least proficient in sixth-grade English (17 percent) and sixth-grade math (16 percent) among area schools, while Corunna students scored at the bottom among area districts in fifth-grade math (15 percent).
Owosso Public Schools Curriculum Director Stephen Brooks admitted the district would like to improve the M-STEP numbers, though there are many factors the assessment does not consider, including kindergarten readiness and student mobility, i.e. students moving in and out of districts in the middle of the academic year.
Brooks added that internal assessments given periodically throughout the school year, including the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA), help to provide a better picture of student outcomes.
“Going back to the beginning, where kids start out at, they may be coming into kindergarten not ready, or when they hit third grade they may not be passing the M-STEP, or fourth grade they may not be passing the M-STEP or eighth grade they may not be passing the M-STEP, but by 11th grade, our kids are doing pretty well. Our kids are passing the SAT, our kids are actively involved…We’ve got more kids in advanced placement (AP) classes, we’ve got Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes, more than any other district, we’ve got all kinds of things that are happening.”
Brooks noted that while statewide SAT math and English proficiency declined this spring (2018-19 school year), by 0.6 percent and 1.5 percent respectively, Owosso SAT scores actually increased, by approximately 4.6 percent in math and 3.6 percent in English.
“The ultimate goal is for our kids to be well-rounded,” Brooks continued. “Whether you’re going into a career or college, we want kids to be exposed to as many different opportunities as possible, so that way they can figure out where they want to go and what they want to do…Where kids come in at, they may not necessarily be where we want them to be (in terms of M-STEP scores), but over a course of a career in school, we feel we are setting up kids to be successful.”
Corunna Public Schools Curriculum Director Jamie Johnston said the district will continue to assist students in being their best.
“Good, bad, or indifferent, a single test score does not indicate in totality how our students are doing. That being said, our goal is to always be at the top of any school-ranking list, despite the categories, metrics or measures used,” Johnston said. “All of our teachers are working every day to help our students meet and exceed these expectations…Our teacher leaders and administrators are analyzing the data and will continue to make adjustments/improvements to our curriculum.”