BCS test scores show improvement

Eleventh-graders improve in four categories, recede in one

BALDWIN — Adding to a series of positive test scores released during Baldwin Community Schools’ most recent school year, new test scores continue to show student improvement. Michigan Merit Exam results were released at the end of June. The exam, which has been in place since 2008, is administered to 11th-grade students and is used to mark yearly progress. Administered in the spring, the exam consists of three components: the ACT, a job skills assessment and a Michigan-developed math, science and social studies assessment. Compared to last year, BCS students increased the district’s proficiency rate in four out of the five categories, including writing, science, social studies and math, with the largest gains being found in math and social studies. However, similar to a statewide trend, students’ proficiency rates dropped slightly in reading in the district. BCS students’ proficiency rates increased 6 percentage points in writing, from 13 percent to 19 percent; 4 percentage points in science, from 4 percent to 8 percent; 15 percentage points in social studies, from 4 percent to 19 percent; and 15 percentage points in math, from 0 percent to 15 percent. Students’ proficiency rates decreased 11 percentage points in reading, from 46 percent to 35 percent. “My initial reaction (to the results) is pretty positive,” said BCS Superintendent Stiles Simmons. “I was very pleased to see the improvement that we have made over last year. I continue to analyze the results and look at the performance of our students this year versus the performance of the students in the past four years to see that some of the scores that we have achieved this year, especially in math, we have far out performed any other group of 11th-grade students here in Baldwin over the past four years. That was pretty remarkable.” Simmons attributes the increased test scores to the staff’s hard work and dedication, increased accountability and strong leadership. Simmons isn’t as certain as to why students’ reading test scores decreased. However, he notes that the statewide average also decreased — by 2.4 percentage points — and suggested a change in this year’s test could be the answer. “While assessment score fluctuations are not unusual when comparing different classes of students, results show the need to continue the state’s strong commitment to high standards,” said State Superintendent Mike Flanagan in a press release. Although BCS scores show improvement, the district’s scores are not on par with the state average. Simmons admits work still needs to be done, but the district has met the individual proficiency target set by the state, he added. “We have met our targets, and in many areas we have exceeded the target, especially in math,” Simmons said. “We are doing well in the eyes of the state and I think in the eyes of everyone who is involved here. Yes we are looking at the state average, and yes we are looking at our neighbors; we want to meet and exceed the state average, we also want to perform better than our neighboring school districts. So in that regard we still have some work to do.” The district will continue to look for ways to improve, but changes will not be drastic, Simmons said. The district already is providing advanced math classes at the middle school, has high school students participating in a Grand Valley State University math and science program and it continues to encourage students to take part in dual enrollment and a technology prep program. Also new this upcoming school year, middle school students will have two opportunities to experience math and English each school day. All student will take their core class, then advanced students will take a second advanced class and lower-performing students will take a remedial class. Although already showing improvement, future changes are designed to better prepare students for college and careers, Simmons said. “We are satisfied with the results that we have,” Simmons said. “It does show that we are definitely moving in the right direction, that’s without a doubt. But it also shows that we have more work to do, our work is never done.”