March 20, 2013 - Comparing this year's third-grade class MEAP scores to last year's results for that same grade doesn't make much sense, according to Leonard Elementary Principal Paul McDevitt.
McDevitt used the example of his current third-grade daughter and second-grade son.
"Next year, when I get the results back on my third-grade son, I'm not going to say in the McDevitt household whether MEAP Scores went up or down. It doesn't make sense to compare my daughter's score with my son's score because they're completely different people," he said. "Same thing happens with these groups of kids, when you look at last year's third grade and this year's third grade, it's a completely different set of kids."
To prove his point, McDevitt presented a further breakdown of the MEAP scores to the school board along with Lakeville Elementary Principal Kristy Marshall Gibson. Both spoke on behalf of all the elementary principals.
Current fifth-graders' MEAP scores were compared to scores from two years ago when they were in third grade and a year ago, when this same group was in fourth grade.
"(We're) tracking (the) same kids over time to see (if they're) making forward progress, no progress (or) backward progress," McDevitt explained. "That's really indicative of what the schools are doing with that group of kids."
In math, current fourth-graders went up nine points in the state from third to fourth grade. District wide Oxford went up 18 points. Clear Lake went up 13, Lakeville up 20, Leonard 24, and OES (Oxford Elementary) up 22.
"Almost a quarter of that class moved to proficiency that weren't proficient before," McDevitt said. "Every single one of our elementary schools out performed the state in percentage (growth) and also for the most part, in our total number of students proficient."
In reading current fourth-graders went up 6 points. District-wide, Oxford improved by 9 points. Clear Lake went up 7 points, Lakeville up 14 points, Leonard up 19 points and OES up 11 points.
Looking at current fifth-graders' math scores, Michigan went up 5 points from third to fourth grade and up 6 points from fourth to fifth grade. District-wide, Oxford went up 9 points from third to fourth grade and 7 points from fourth to fifth grade. Clear Lake was up 20 points from third to fourth grade and improved another 9 points from fourth to fifth grade. Lakeville went up 6 points from third to fourth grade and up another 17 points from fourth to fifth grade. Leonard increased 8 points from third to fourth grade and went up another 11 points from fourth to fifth grade. OES increased 4 points from third to fourth grade and increased another 6 points from fourth to fifth grade.
In current fifth-grade reading scores, Michigan improved 5 points from third to fourth grade and then increased another 2 points from fourth to fifth grade. District-wide, Oxford increased 6 points from third to fourth grade and another 7 points from fourth to fifth grade. Clear Lake did not increase in reading from third to fourth grade, but went up 9 points from fourth to fifth grade. Lakeville went up 3 points from third to fourth grade and up another 14 points from fourth to fifth grade. Leonard increased 10 points from third to fourth grade and went up another 17 points from fourth to fifth grade. OES also went up 10 points from third to fourth grade and increased by another 3 points from fourth to fifth grade.
While most scores seem to be improving from grade level to grade level, McDevitt saw unfavorable trends when they compared fifth grade to middle school sixth-grade scores, especially in math.
2010-11 math test scores showed a negative 1 point loss for the state of Michigan from fifth to sixth grade and a increase of 1 point from sixth to seventh. Meanwhile, Oxford Middle School (OMS) showed a negative 11 point loss from fifth grade to sixth grade and a 5 point increase from sixth grade to seventh grade.
The 2010-11 reading test scores showed a 2 point increase statewide from fifth to sixth grade and a 5 point decrease from sixth grade to seventh grade. OMS had a 4 point increase from sixth to seventh grade and a 1 point increase from seventh to eighth grade.
The state of Michigan remained at the same score in math for the 2011-12 MEAP scores, from fifth to sixth grade; however, Oxford decreased by 5 points from fifth to sixth grade. In reading, both the state and the district decreased by 1 point.
McDevitt said further research is needed as to why math scores are dropping from fifth to sixth grade.
"We're going to reanalyze our everyday math fifth-grade curriculum and reanalyze the sixth-grade MEAP content expectations and make sure things are covered on both," he said. "We're going to work with the middle school to try and look at the transition from fifth to sixth grade and make sure we are doing a good job setting our students up for success."
Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction Dr. James Schwarz said analyzing the data is one thing, but there is probably a need for more interventions at both the fifth and sixth grade to help kids.
For the most part, McDevitt said he and the other principals were "really proud" when they looked at the data.
"We like to pick the things that show we're not doing well and look at those and see what we can do better, but we don't want to forget a lot of things we are doing well because this data shows as those kids have grown, they're achievement has gone up a lot, too," he said. "We want to preserve the things that are working."
"We believe they are important and we're going to find ways to continue this trend of improving our students and find ways to continue to make that even more significant," McDevitt added. "We will not be satisfied until our students are demonstrating growth in all areas and the Oxford Competencies."
Oxford Middle School Principal Ken Weaver agreed that math is one of the areas they really need to concentrate on.
"This is one thing we've been working on (and) working on and we finally crawled over the county and caught up to the county average," he said. "But it is an area that we still continue to see a disconnect for whatever reason."
Looking at 2011-12 math scores, in seventh grade, OMS students were plus 14 over the state score of 37, but were even with the county at a score of 51. In eighth grade, they were above the state by 16 points and one point over the county score.
"In middle school, you start to see a really large increase or incline in the difficulty of the material. Seventh grade math is the most critical year," Weaver said. "It's the first time you see abstract math because you no longer count apples and oranges. You're starting to see way more equations and so forth. It's a make or break in the seventh and eighth-grade years."
In reading, current eighth-graders were 4 points above the county and 12 points above the state's scores in the seventh grade and in eighth grade, they were five above the county and 12 above the state.
In writing, the current seventh-graders were above the county by 10 and above the state by 19. In eighth-grade science, Oxford was above the county by 3 points and above the state score by points this year.
Weaver said a lot of the scores are attributed to the elementary level and how well-prepared the students are.
"Coming through to us, we are getting kids who know how to read, know how to write, know how to do the basics," he said. "That's key for us because we can't move them or try to do anything and get them anywhere unless they come (in) with that."
Howeverm, another area of "disconnect", according to Weaver, is ninth-grade social studies. That continues to be a negative score compared to the county, which Weaver says is the true benchmark.
"We are in Oakland County – the best county in MEAP scores. It's really what we want to hold ourselves to is the county average," he said. "It's always good to keep an eye on the state's average, but we're far above that."
2012 social studies scores showed Oxford 5 points above the state and 5 points below the county.
"This is the one area where we don't seem to be making the progress (and) we need to," Weaver added. "It seems like we're so focused on numbers, but behind every number, is a kid. If you can prepare them and get them to move, you are helping improve the quality of their education and of their life down the road and that's so important to do."
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.