Gladstone examines MEAP scores

GLADSTONE – The Gladstone School Board discussed the results of MEAP testing Monday night.

The Michigan Educational Assessment Program test, commonly known as MEAP, evaluates students between third grade and eighth grade in mathematics, reading, science, social studies, and writing. Students are ranked as advanced, proficient, partially proficient, or not proficient.

According to 2013-14 MEAP results, Gladstone students excel in reading with more than 10 percent of all students from fifth grade to eighth grade scoring in the advanced level. Eighth grade students set the bar even higher with 28.3 percent of grade students scoring in the advanced reading level.

However, according to the test, students throughout the district struggle with math. Sixth grade students received the lowest scores with 61 percent of student being ranked as not proficient compared to 53.3 percent of eighth graders, 37.1 percent of fourth graders, 33.3 percent of seventh graders, 30.8 percent of fifth graders, and 21.7 percent of third graders.

“I think as a group we decided that we don’t want to dismiss any bad results, but look at them as an opportunity for improvement and look at the positive things that came out of it,” said Board Trustee Paul Capodilupo.

Both the school board and school administrators expressed frustration over inconsistencies in the test’s results, which, when compared to past years, indicate declining performance in students as they move from one grade to the next. However, teachers are not seeing the declining performance in the classroom.

“It’s frustrating at the teacher level because we take these test very seriously and we would expect that the test results would correlate with classroom performance and other measures and assessments of the students,” said Gladstone Superintendent Jay Kulbertis.

Some of the discrepancies may come down to the scoring of the test, which the board noted sometimes had very slim margins for what is considered advanced or proficient.

“Kids who would be taking home an A- or a B+ as a letter grade are just proficient not highly proficient,” noted Board Vice President Linda Howlett.

While the MEAP and the reporting systems that rank school performance based off MEAP scores have been reformed multiple time – including one short-lived revision last year that graded schools on a color scale including “lime” – legislators have decided it’s time to replace the test completely and start over. Unlike MEAP, which is administered in the fall, the new test will be given in the spring, preventing results from being skewed by the “brain drain” caused by summer vacation.

“The way that I understand it is that the incremental improvement and the number of students becoming proficient or highly proficient will stay the same but the test will be different. So we’ll still have somewhat of a comparison to use but a different exam,” said Capodilupo.

Beyond when the test will be administered, teachers and administrators have very little information about the nature or requirements of the new test.

“We assume that it’s going to be on the computer, and that poses a whole other set of problems,” said Gladstone Junior High School Principal Dave Ballard. “We’ve practiced that for the last couple years, but we don’t know what’s going to come our way, we don’t know if we have the technology to support it, and then of course in our building we’re trying to get 350 kids to take these day long tests in (one or two) computer labs.”

Even though the district has little information on how to prepare for the new test, the results from MEAP will be used to plan how to best meet the educational needs of students.

“School improvement planning takes place in every building,” said Kulbertis. “They do a lot of work just aggregating this data, taking it apart, looking at specifically which students in which classrooms at which grade levels for what reason had certain performance levels.”

Also during the meeting the Gladstone High School Robotics team and the Gladstone Junior High School Drama Club gave presentations to the board. The robotics team made it to semi-finals and received a special award from Motorola for the quality construction of their robot during the FIRST Robotics tournament held in Escanaba Saturday. The drama club will be performing “Miss Beth,” a modern reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” March 26 and 27 at the high school at 7 p.m.