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Listen Tuesdays at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on 90.5 WKAR-FMAccording to the Kids Count report of April 2018, 56% of third graders in Michigan are not proficient in English Language Arts. At the same time, some new public school teachers in Michigan are leaving the classroom because they do not earn enough money for a decent living. Virtual and charter schools are on the rise in Michigan. And in some communities there are breakthroughs in raising better readers.Covering education in Michigan is complex, but WKAR is committed to reporting on the problems, searching for solutions, and holding leaders accountable.Listen for Making The Grade in Michigan with WKAR education reporter Kevin Lavery every Tuesday at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on 90.5 WKAR-FM's Morning Edition.

Waverly School District Implements Reading Recovery Plan

yellow school bus
flickr/Those Guys 119
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The Waverly Community Schools in Delta Township are developing a plan to recover falling third grade reading scores.

Waverly Community Schools in Delta Township is re-focusing on early elementary literacy in a bid to improve its state assessment scores. In 2015, 69 percent of Waverly third graders tested as "reading-proficient" on the M-STEP.  By 2018, that number had fallen to 37.7 percent.

 

KELLY BLAKE:

We have talked about this, and the first thing I’d like to acknowledge is, we don’t want to make any excuses for our scores.  We did have a large influx of students in the past two years because we created an unlimited school of choice opportunity, which we didn’t do this year.  We’re trying to maintain our enrollment at around 3,000 students.

 

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Credit Courtesy / Detroit Free Press / Capsio
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Detroit Free Press / Capsio
This table shows the decline in third grade reading proficiency in the Waverly Community Schools from 2015 to 2018.

 

KEVIN LAVERY:

Why would an unlimited school of choice (program) play a role in those numbers?

 

 

 

BLAKE:

We aren’t sure that it did.  It’s may be one of the causalities.  It’s...perhaps our students that haven’t been our students long term; we’re not sure what kind of instruction they’ve received in their past.      When you get them in new, you can’t fix everything in eight months.

LAVERY:

Was there an event or series of events in the last four years that you could point to and say, yes...this is where things went off the track?

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Credit Graphic by McKenna Ross/WKAR
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This graph compares Waverly's third grade ELA (English Language Arts) M-STEP scores with a few other mid-Michigan districts.

BLAKE:

We can’t think of anything.  We’ve mulled this over for several hours, and we really can’t.  So, we’re going to start where we are and move forward.

LAVERY:

Is there a guiding principle in terms of teaching or coaching literacy and ensuring students are proficient in English if it’s their native language, or their second language?

BLAKE:

We knew that our scores were trending down both in Waverly and in the state as far as literacy.  So, we implemented an intervention plan where we have hired five total reading / interventionist teachers and we’ve put four instructional paraprofessionals in each of our elementary buildings to help support any students who are at risk of falling below the average grade band.  We implemented it last year, it’s a three-year trial. We’re hoping that last year maybe was an “implementation dip” and that we’ll see some good results. 

We did a lot of work with an instructional coach working with our kindergarten staff.  We went back to the basics: what do we know?  Let’s get the kids into real books, let’s teach them concepts about print, we read from left to right and top to bottom.  We saw really great data results with our kindergarten kids.  So, we hope they sustained over the summer and that we can move forward from that.

LAVERY:

Are teacher evaluations tied to M-STEP scores, whether that’s done at Waverly or if that’s a state mandate? 

BLAKE:

The state law says for teachers who teach ELA (English Language Arts) and math, you have to use a three-year trend in their M-STEP data.  The problem that we’ve had with that is that you get the data after the evaluations are turned in in the spring.  We haven’t used it yet because it hasn’t been user friendly.  So we’ll see.  That’s in revision as we speak, I believe.

LAVERY:

What would make it user friendly?

BLAKE:

Well, if we had data.  For example, we use the Northwest Evaluation Assessment, the MAP score.  That shows growth over time.  So, the children take the benchmark growth assessment three times a year.  You can see where they start in the fall, what actual standards they need to improve, and you can see what kind of growth they’ve made over that nine-month school year.

LAVERY:

If you were the parent and I was the superintendent, and you saw those numbers...what would you ask me about this big drop, and what are you going to do about it?

BLAKE:

If I were the parent, I may ask why do you feel that your scores and trending downward, and what’s the plan to help improve this matter?

LAVERY:

As superintendent, what would be your answer?

BLAKE:

I would tell them exactly what I’ve told you.  We have a plan in place, our kindergarten scores are looking really good, and we’re doing everything we can to help our students become the readers they need to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kevin Lavery is a general assignment reporter and occasional local host for Morning Edition and All Things considered.
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