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Study ranks Oxford Schools 21 out of 28 in county

January 30, 2013 - In comparing a student's proficiency on standardized tests to their socioeconomic status, one study suggests Oxford Community Schools is performing "below expected levels."

According to a study known as the "Value Added Matrix" (VAM) put out by Bridge Magazine, Oxford Community Schools is ranked 21 out of 28 in Oakland County and 385 out of 560 districts statewide in student proficiency as it relates to socioeconomic status.

Oxford's Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Dr. James Schwarz said "the study is interesting in concept."

"It appears to be based on a one-snapshot-in-time test within fourth, eighth and eleventh grade," he said. "I do not see where this study tracks an individual student over time to draw a more valid conclusion about predictability for success."

The study used 2011-12 state standardized tests including fourth and eighth-grade MEAP (Michigan Educational Assessment Program) tests and eleventh-grade MME (Michigan Merit Examination) and ACT (American College Testing) scores for both public and charter schools. According to the Bridge Magazine website, "The focus was on the number of students within a district who were deemed 'proficient' in a given subject."

The website also said the VAM is based on previous work done by the University of Arkansas, along with modifications made by the Midland-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Using the Arkansas study, Bridge Magazine used an "Ordinary Least Squares" (OLS) regression analysis to predict the percent of students projected to be proficient for each grade/test. Using the Mackinac Center study, the number of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch was the benchmark to determine socioeconomic status.

According to this formula, a district that "performs exactly as projected" would result in a VAM score of 100. Anything over 100 would be "above expected levels," anything under 100 would be "below expected levels."

"This does not mean that districts with a VAM below 100 have a low percentage of students meeting proficiency standards," stated the website. "What it does mean is that relative to how well the students are projected to perform, given the socioeconomic status of the student population, the district's students are not meeting expectations."

Schwarz said he did not see where the study "adjusts for students who are of low socioeconomic (status) who just moved into the district and took the test."

"Many students would be 'ranked' based on education they conceivably did not receive in our district," he said. "It does not adjust for transiency, which is often common when looking at low socioeconomic situations."

Oxford, which has a free and reduced lunch elibibility percentage of 23.71, received a VAM score of 97.22.

Oxford's three neighboring districts in Oakland County all ranked higher in the study. Lake Orion Schools, which has 50.02 percent free and reduced lunch eligibility, was ranked seventh in the county and 109th in the state. It scored a VAM of 105.05.

Clarkston Schools, which has 22.72 percent free and reduced lunch eligibility, was ranked 11th in the county and 176th in the state. It scored a VAM of 102.8.

Oxford's neighbor to the west, Brandon Schools, scored 99.76 in the study and was ranked 16th in the county and 297th in the state. In Brandon, 37.36 percent of the district's students are eligible for free and reduced lunches.

The study's highest ranking in the county went to Bloomfield Schools, which scored a 112.91, while the lowest ranking in Oakland went to Pontiac Schools, which scored 86.41

The number one school in the state was Star International Academy, a charter school in Dearborn Heights, which received a VAM of 120.48. Star has 80 percent free and reduced lunch elegibility.

The lowest school on the list was also a charter, Aisha Shule/WEB Dubois Prep. A in Detroit with a VAM score of 76.08. Aisah Shule/WEB has 53.21 percent eligible for free and reduced lunch.

"I do not hold much of an opinion as to where Oxford lies as I feel the study has inherent flaws that really do not indicate growth over time to really establish a sound predictability of achievement," Schwarz said. "Of course, we put forth much effort to ensure that all of our students are successful to the best of their potential, regardless of socioeconomic factors; creating programs and accommodations at all levels."

"In Oxford, we do not separate out and rank students by socioeconomic status," added Schwarz. "We look at ability levels and make adjustments based on what students are showing they need within each of those levels." 

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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