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Study ranks Oxford Schools 357/540

February 12, 2014 - Oxford Community Schools is performing below expected levels when it comes to student proficiency on standardized tests compared to their socioeconomic status, according to a study put out by Bridge Magazine.

The study known as "Achievement Exceeding Predicted Proficiency" (AEPP) places Oxford at a state rank of 357 out of 540 districts assessed in the study.

The study used 2011-2013 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.

"Three years of data were included in the overall AEPP ranking to allow a broader view of school performance and account for variations from year to year," said the Bridge website. "The focus was on the number of students within a district who were deemed 'proficient' in a given subject."

Where Oxford falls in the rankings isn't a surprise to Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction Dr. James Schwarz.

"I am going to go off the assumption that these statistics are all accurate," he said. "If you go onto the comments on that Bridge website, there is a lot of commentary there about people commenting on the accuracy of their numbers."

Assuming that the numbers are correct, Schwarz said the study "only underscores the fact and provides more validation" that they need to continue to do more interventions at every grade level.

"We can question the statistics and we can question the standings and so on, but I think it does drive home the point that we do need to keep pursuing our focus areas," he said. "It does underscore that there is a need in the district and we do pay attention to those indicators."

"Some (studies) we pay attention to more than others," Schwarz continued. "Certainly state standardized testing and those things that we know are more of a tried and true statistical format and more trusting in terms of how they collected that data."

Superintendent Dr. William Skilling agreed and said he wouldn't use the Bridge study as a "gauge of how well you're doing."

"There are different ways to measure social demographics and how one school might rank over another," he said. "For instance, this past year, we had two of our elementary schools, which have our highest percentage of at-risk students, (get) recognized as a reward school in the state of Michigan because it exceeded the the expectations of how the students should perform based on the state standards. Then a couple years ago, (the) Center for American Progress named us as one of the top in the state with the highest score you can get for return on investment."

The Bridge website said the AEPP 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 an Academic Champs 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 an AEPP 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."

Oxford, which has 5,321 students and a free/reduced lunch percentage of 22.5, received a 97.7 Academic Champs Score.

Oxford's three neighboring districts in Oakland County all ranked higher in the study. Lake Orion Schools, which has 7,576 studentd and 19.2 percent free and reduced lunch eligibility, was ranked 81 in the state. It scored an Academic Champs Score of 105.63.

Clarkston Schools, which has 7,921 students and 20.4 percent free and reduced lunch eligibility, was ranked 162 in the state. It scored an Academic Champs Score of 103.07.

Brandon Schools has 3,168 students and 37.5 percent free and reduced lunch eligibility, was ranked 300 in the state. It scored an Academic Champs Score of 99.18.

When comparing the Academic Champs Scores between the districts, Skilling said the state rankings become "insignificant."

"It wouldn't take a lot to move four or five points, but when you look at the (state) ranking it looks like 'oh my goodness they're way off the mark, but it's not," he added. "You might have 100 schools ahead of you but that doesn't mean they're out performing you. Academically we're consistently above the Oakland County average and if you're above the Oakland County Average that puts you way above the state average because Oakland has the highest test scores in the state each year."

No matter what the data says, Skilling said there is always room for improvement and they aren't looking to make excuses.

"I don't care how they evaluate our schools because there is so many different ways you can look at it, but the bottom line is that we just have to always strive to do better," he said. "And that's what we're doing."

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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