“The word I would use is ‘grace,'” said Ed Roeber, assessment director for the Michigan Assessment Consortium, a nonpartisan education group. “There were a lot of people who put 110% effort into teaching kids.”
He said schools have the tools to accelerate student learning now that children are back in school. They can reduce class sizes, for example, or verify that each student is learning all the key concepts that appear on the test.
“Every child who is tested can achieve competence,” he said. Schools can help them do this “not by practicing the test items, but by looking at their curriculum and saying, ‘What kind of skills do children need to have?'”
At the Westwood Community School District in Dearborn Heights, Superintendent Stiles Simmons said helping students recover includes both academic support and social and emotional support. His district is developing a mentoring program launched last year for middle school students. He credits the pandemic relief money for being able to hire a district-wide social and emotional learning coordinator, which he says “has been a godsend.”
He said M-STEP data can serve as a “baseline” and can be a “good exercise for research purposes, but it doesn’t necessarily help us in the long run.”
“We really have to look at where we are now because that’s where our kids are,” he said.
In the Reeths-Puffer School District near Muskegon, 2021 scores have fallen but are now back to pre-pandemic levels for most grade levels for english language arts and in the elementary classes for math. The district has approximately 3,500 students, more than half of whom are considered economically disadvantaged by the state.
“I would say we’ve remained relatively consistent throughout the pandemic,” Superintendent Steve Edwards said. “If you haven’t regressed during the pandemic, I guess you can count that as a small victory.”
He said he believes two factors contributed to this: the district’s decision to remain in-person for the entire 2020-2021 term and its $500,000 investment in summer acceleration programming over the past two years. . This funding came from federal COVID relief money which will run out in September 2024.
Funds for the pandemic provided “an immediate boost, but it could be detrimental to building systems and supports that people come to rely on, which then go unfunded,” he said. . “In the short term it’s great, but in the long term it makes me nervous.
Brooke Brawley, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment at Niles Community Schools, said testing information is helpful in determining what additional supports students need. But she said it’s important to remember that these scores are just one of many data points that inform teachers about students’ academic levels.
She said one area of growth would be looking at math achievement and seeing how to use tiered systems to help students improve. A tiered system includes a program for all students with additional supports for students who need them.
Simmons, of Westwood, agreed. He said his district tends to pay more attention to benchmark tests administered three times a year because they provide more real-time data on student status.
He expects to receive a full report from one of his staff on the district’s results on Friday. From there, he wants to analyze how the district compares to similar districts in terms of size and demographics.
The district used benchmark scores from last school year to determine who should receive high-dose tutoring. Simmons said students who regularly attend tutoring sessions have higher grades and better benchmark test scores. He said the district is considering working with companies that also have strong after-school tutoring programs.
For Frances Vicioso, parent of a Kalamazoo public school graduate, the district’s results are very “concerning” but “absolutely what I expected.”
She wants fairer school funding, more accessible information for parents about the school district’s budget, and a better understanding from others about the limitations of standardized testing.
One-third of third graders in Kalamazoo public schools were proficient in English or better, while 30.7% of third graders were proficient in math or better.
Kalamazoo’s third-grade English scores remained below the state average and saw declines similar in size to the state when comparing 2018-2019 to 2021-2022. In third-grade math, however, district scores fell 7 percentage points, from 37.5 percent to 30.7 percent, compared to the statewide drop of 5 percentage points ( from 46.7% to 41.5%).
The neighborhood was completely isolated for nine months during the 2020-2021 school year.