March 19, 2014 - Brandon Twp.- On average, less than one-third of students in third through eighth grades in the district are proficient in mathematics, according to the Michigan Educational Assessment Program.
MEAP scores released last month showed 28 percent of third grade students are proficient in math, compared with 40.2 percent statewide and 51 percent in the county. The gap grows larger by fourth grade. While the district showed 30 percent proficient in math at this grade, it was still behind the state at 45.3 percent, and far behind the county at 57 percent proficient.
Scores for science (tested in fifth and eighth grades) and social studies (tested in sixth and ninth grades) are even more dismal.
Less than 50 percent of district students tested proficient in writing in both fourth and seventh grades. The district's strongest MEAP scores came in reading, ranging from 62 percent proficient in third grade, 55 percent proficient in seventh grade, to 77 percent proficient in eighth grade.
In every subject tested, at every grade level, district students underperformed compared to the county average, by as much as up to 27 percentage points. The district was also under the state averages at math for every grade level tested. The district did outperform the state average in reading for every grade tested besides seventh, and also did better than the state average in seventh grade writing, eighth grade science, and ninth grade social studies.
"With math, our MEAP scores are unacceptable and need to be improved," said Superintendent Lorrie McMahon. "We have taken steps to improve and our language scores have held on. Science and social studies also need work."
According to the State of Michigan website (michigan.gov), "MEAP tests were developed to measure what Michigan educators believe all students should know and be able to achieve if five content areas: mathematics, reading, science, social studies, and writing. The test results paint a picture of how well Michigan students and Michigan schools are doing when compared to standards established by the State Board of Education. The MEAP test is the only common measure given statewide to all students. It serves as a measure of accountability for Michigan schools. Results of MEAP tests can be used by schools for school improvement purposes. The results indicate overall strengths and weaknesses of a school district's curriculum, and can be used to modify instructional practice."
The standardized tests have been in place for years and have been criticized by educators who resent "teaching to the test." McMahon has additional criticism for MEAP, saying that the state is able to manipulate the scores however they choose, and made the test even more difficult a few years ago by raising the number of questions that had to be answered correctly in order to be deemed proficient.
"I believe there is a real effort to see public schools fail and they don't want to see a good, solid district like Brandon be successful," McMahon said. "It's a revolving door and no one can predict what is on the test...Anytime there is an assessment done at a certain hour on one day, all you know is how that student did in that one hour on that one day, you don't know what that student's learning is. Some students have a bad day, some aren't good at filling in bubbles on the test, others are good test takers, but don't have good knowledge and others are just good. This is devastating when things come back poorly, because we know they can do better and their learning is more in depth than what that test is telling."
McMahon had no comment as to why the district did not perform on par with county averages on the MEAP, nor with the state in math, but all students here, as well as in every district across the state, have taken their last MEAP test. Next year, it will be replaced with a test that is better aligned with the common core curriculum all districts are required to follow.
The district plans to be better prepared for whatever that test is with the board approval of $175,000 worth of new math materials for kindergarten through eighth grades. The materials, to be purchased at the end of this year, are the first new mathematics curriculum to be purchased at the elementary level in 12 years. Kindergarten through fifth grades will be using "Bridges" math curriculum, and sixth through eighth grades will use "Connected Math Project" to support the common core curriculum. Teacher representatives from all grade levels examined materials from several companies and selected Bridges and CMP as the best after sampling them in the classrooms and consulting with Geri Devine, a math consultant from Oakland Schools and district parent.
The materials are not traditional type textbooks, McMahon said, but for 6-8, bound books that each contain a unit of study, notebook like in size and shape. At the elementary level, the new materials are consumables, exercises and activities that a certain amount will have to be replaced yearly at a cost of roughly $20,000-$25,000.
"With the new materials, we should see an increase in scores," McMahon said. "The publishers will give mathematics professional development and the district is also planning more professional development in the area of math, with instruction by expert users of the materials and those who have a proven track record for improving mathematical competency."
MEAP Results Fall 2013
Grade 3 4 5
BSD State OC BSD State OC BSD State OC
Reading 62 61.3 68 65 63.5 78 76 71.7 79
Writing 46 50.5 60
Math 28 40.2 51 30 45.3 57 33 45.2 58
Science 14 16.8 22
Grade 6 7 8 9
BSD State OC BSD State OC BSD State OC BSD State OC
Reading 76 71.5 78 55 60.4 70 77 72.7 80
Writing 49 47.8 61
Math 34 41.5 55 32 39.2 51 33 34.5 48
Science 21 19.8 26
Social S 20 26.5 35 29 25.6 35
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville