BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Staff Writer
For the fourth consecutive year, Clarkston students exceeded Oakland County and Michigan proficiency averages in English Language Arts and Mathematics.
Clarkston's scores on the M-STEP (Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress) was in the top half of all school districts in Oakland County, the highest performing county in the state, according to results released by the Michigan Department of Education earlier this month.
"The data we collect from state assessments is just one small indication of how our students are doing academically," said Shawn Ryan, superintendent of Clarkston Community Schools. "Other indicators of growth over time include feedback from teachers, performance on classroom tasks and tests, and interactions with students and parents relating to individual social, emotional and academic development."
The M-STEP, as well as PSAT and SAT state assessments, cover up to three years of academic content, so they serve a different purpose for the state than the district, Ryan said.
"At the district level, our administrators use this data to inform broad curricular and programming initiatives," he said. "On a day-to-day basis, our teachers draw upon a multitude of other factors to create a personalized learning environment for each student. This is, and always will be, the 'whole child' approach to education that is the cornerstone of our culture in Clarkston."
Last spring, students in grades 3-11 completed the M-STEP and students in grades 8-11 completed the PSAT or SAT.
"Our educational practice is focused on four pillars of excellence: whole-person development, foundational and academic skills, student-focused learning, and future pathways," said Nancy Mahoney, assistant superintendent of instructional services. "Together, these pillars promote student growth and achievement."
In ELA grades 3-7, the highest proficiency rate was 70 percent for sixth graders, and performance in all grades was above state and county averages. The Mathematics portion grades 3-7 of the M-STEP saw the highest proficiency rate at the sixth grade level at 60 percent. Performance in all grades was also above state and county averages.
The new Michigan K-12 science standards were adopted in late 2017, and the state assessment is in field testing mode. Students in grades 5, 8, and 11 completed the Science portion of the M-STEP but the results are being use to revise this portion and have not been shared, according to the state.
The Social Studies portion of the fifth grade M-STEP evaluates curriculum in third, fourth and fifth grades. The eighth and 11th grade M-STEP assessments evaluate curriculum presented in the years leading up to those grade levels. The highest proficiency was at the 11th grade level at 50 percent, while performance in all grades was above state average.
"We know our scores are above state and county averages, but we have not yet received the breakdown of all schools that shows where our scores fall relative to the scores of other districts," said Radhika Issac, Clarkston's administrator of data structure and analysis. "When half of Michigan's students are proficient, we need to question the test rather than our students. The M-STEP is one of many assessments that the district utilizes to reflect on instruction and inform next steps. Teachers use resources, conversations with students, and class tests to ensure students are learning and growing on a day-to-day basis."
Students in grades 8, 9, and 10 take the PSAT. The ninth and 10th grade scores are not used for accountability reporting but are meant to help prepare students for the 11th grade SAT that evaluates college and career readiness for ELA and Mathematics. Clarkston students' performance in both ELA and Mathematics are above state and county averages.
"There was no significant increase or decrease in our scores from last year to this year," said Issac. "Our 2019 assessment scores reflect a healthy trend of stable performance across the district. However, we're experiencing academic growth in the classroom as a result of curriculum changes and additional support resources. Therefore, we expect to see an incremental increase in our state test scores over time as well."
About Clarkston Community Schools: Clarkston is a highly regarded school district with an enrollment of nearly 7,100 students. We have seven elementary schools (K-5), one middle school serving grades 6-7, one junior high for grades 8-9, and Clarkston High School, which serves students in grades 10-12. We also have an Early Childhood Center serving children ages 3-5, and an alternative high school/community education facility. Clarkston Community Schools students are well-prepared for a future that excites them, and believe that they can achieve their dreams. The mission of Clarkston Community Schools is to create a learning environment where students, staff, and families are challenged, healthy, engaged, safe, and supported.
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