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Posted on Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

MEAP chart: Washtenaw County public and charter schools post mixed results

By Danny Shaw

A look at results of the Michigan Educational Assessment Program released by the state last week shows most public school districts in Washtenaw County followed the statewide trend of boosting performance slightly in math and reading.

Results in social studies, writing, and science, which, unlike reading and math, are not tested in every grade were more mixed, with gains in some areas and drops in others.

Charter school results were also mixed, with gains in some areas and declines in others.

In many Washtenaw County districts, a larger percentage of students scored at or above the proficient level than in the state as a whole. Districts on the eastern side of the county, which generally have higher populations of poor students, struggled to keep pace with the statewide average however. Low-income students generally don’t perform as well on standardized tests as their wealthier peers.

The percentage of students in Lincoln, Willow Run and Ypsilanti districts who met or exceeded the standard was below the statewide average in all grades in reading and math. Milan, Manchester and Whitmore Lake also failed to meet the statewide average in some categories on the test.

You can download a chart showing Washtenaw County school district and charter school performance here.

The chart is compiled from the 2011 state data released Wednesday. The 2010 results are included and have been adjusted to reflect the new, tougher state cut scores. The State Board of Education approved raising the percentage of questions students had to get right on the MEAP test in order to be judged proficient last year . Districts have been warning parents for months to expect a dramatic change in passing rates.

The higher cut scores bring Michigan into a more comparable standing with states across the country and will improve upon college readiness, the state said. The old scores painted an inaccurate picture of students’ proficiency, state officials said.


Alan Cook

Wed, Feb 22, 2012 : 3:45 a.m.

National math test scores continue to be disappointing. This poor trend persists in spite of new texts, standardized tests with attached implied threats, or laptops in the class. At some point, maybe we should admit that math, as it is taught currently and in the recent past, seems irrelevant to a large percentage of grade school kids. Why blame a sixth grade student or teacher trapped by meaningless lessons? Teachers are frustrated. Students check out. The missing element is reality. Instead of insisting that students learn another sixteen formulae, we need to involve them in tangible life projects. And the task must be interesting. If we really want kids to learn math and to have the lessons be valuable, we need to change the mode of teaching. Our kids can master the math that most adults need. We can't continue to have class rooms full of math drudges. Instead, we need to change our teaching tactics with real life projects. Alan Cook <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Tue, Feb 21, 2012 : 2:39 a.m.

If given a choice.... why would any parent leave their child in the Ypsi, Willow run or Lincoln School districts? Statistically speaking your child's future is at risk. It borders on child abuse...


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 5:44 p.m.

The fact that public education use to be better in the &quot;old&quot; days should tell us something about all these innovative, modern math programs put into place by all these &quot;expert and dedicated&quot; educators and administrators. I give them all a failing grade and we need to start over without tenure protections and bureaucratic bloat.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 4:33 p.m.

This is not complicated. If you are trapped in a horrible school district like Ypsi, Lincoln, Willow Run... it makes sense to yank your kids and put them into a charter. If you are in a good school district it might not. This is all about choice and parents looking out for their kids. When I hear the MEA talk about public good it invariably means their own good with disregard to the good of the children.


Tue, Feb 21, 2012 : 4:04 p.m.

Exactly. For the most part, the charter schools are not filled with kids coming from districts like Ann Arbor. They come from districts like Willow Run, Ypsi, and Lincoln. We live in the Willow Run school district. (Would like to move - would have liked to move before our 10YO started school - but the housing market tanked and we are hopelessly underwater on our mortgage.) We gave the local school a chance, sent our son to Willow Run for kindergarten and were not happy. We now send our kids to a charter school (Fortis) that performs significantly better than Willow Run schools. Both kids are excelling and we are very happy with the school. Would we send them to a charter school if we lived in the Ann Arbor district? Doubtful. Bad school district = parents looking for something better (i.e. better-performing charter schools) Good school district = parents sending their children to the local school


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 4:19 p.m.

What I find most disturbing is that our district, Lincoln, is 3rd from the bottom in nearly all comparisons. Even if I take into the account that the grading is more difficult this year, the percentages are embarrassing.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 4:05 p.m.

oi, the comments on here are worth gagging on. DEMOGRAPHICS: educational level of the parents, race, and class in particular determine where students attend school especially poor students. In addition, kids aren't car parts - you can't put them into a machine called &quot;third grade&quot; and stamp them to all come out the same. I think the results above - including the charter school results prove my point. Educational results have more to do with where the school is (and the demographics that go with location) than any other factor. It seems a bit insane to not recognize that student demographics play a huge role in educational results in a given school district. Different needs have different costs to achieve the same outcomes. Its reality. And yet we fund each kid the same. What is the percentage of IEP's in these districts? What is the percentage of assisted lunches in these districts?


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 3:34 p.m.

Please read an article in NY Times 2/10, entitled &quot;Rich and Poor Further Apart in Education&quot;. The gap between these economic groups is stunning, and authors show that it is far wider than the gap between races. Over the 26 yr. I taught in AAPS, I cannot recall a time when superintendents emphasized raising the bar for low income kids instead of focusing solely on kids of color. Readers, google up this article, it's worth your time while you are poring over the MEAP charts here.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 2:51 p.m.

A student that starts out below grade level will continue to score &quot;not proficient&quot; until they catch up with their peers. Students from homes that are below poverty level are much more likely to perform below grade level. Certain districts and charters will perpetually have a higher share of below poverty level and thus, more below grade level students than others. Said districts are doomed to low proficiency percentages, which is demoralizing to a community struggling to reach higher. So, why not measure growth instead? A district or charter that launches a successful program would be rewarded with a positive growth score, regardless of the economic status of their constituents, regardless of their students' baseline. The MEAP does not measure growth, NWEA's MAP test does - and the results are available immediately - it took months for districts to get their MEAP scores, and parents had to wait even longer.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 3:09 p.m.

You might want to check this out: <a href=",1607,7-140-37818_56562---,00.html" rel='nofollow'>,1607,7-140-37818_56562---,00.html</a> The methodology includes metrics for both improvement and achievement gap, among other things.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 2:15 p.m.

Are the teachers going to be paid by the Test Scores their students get?


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 3:42 p.m.

If teachers were the only factor deciding how students do on tests, this would be fair. But, teachers have no control over poverty, parenting, and aptitude, so paying by test scores is unfair. Should we pay doctors based on the health of their patients?


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 2:45 p.m.

Very helpful comment. Thank you for adding to the discussion.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 2:32 p.m.

Eyeheart, you are living in some sort of free-market fantasy world that does not exist. You are dreaming.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

Ultimately, yes. When poorly performing schools (both Charter and Public) downsize and/or close since people are now offered viable CHOICES, the teachers at the pooly performing schools will get a quick lesson in pay for performance.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 2:04 p.m.

@A2annon Not dramatic at all. Just looking at data and drawing logical conclusions. Why on earth would anyone send their kid to a bad school if they had a choice? Don't CHOOSE to send your kids to the underperforming Charter Schools and they go away....just like you want. Why deny the parents of underperforming public schools the chance to get a better education? I thought we wanted to offer the best options for education? Right? The underperforming schools go out of business or improve, since nobody sends their kids there. What's wrong with that? Maybe Ypsi, Milan, Lincoln and Will run might even consider getting their act together. But if they CHOOSE not to, at least the parents can CHOOSE to get their kids a future.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 4:35 p.m.

Absolutely right.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 2:29 p.m.

If you look at where a lot of these charter schools are located, they offer a great alternative to the public school in the same area - and presumably have similar demographics as the public school - maybe with one exception - parental apathy. By the way, I wouldn't send my kid to Honey Creek, since Dexter and AA schools are in the area and better. So although Honey Creek seems to be doing well, the local competition would seem to be better. With regard to resources - you know - money. I would rather spend it on somebody who seems to know how to use it, rather than continue to send it down the sewer with someone who doesn't.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 2:16 p.m.

In the meantime, our financially strapped public schools raise class sizes and decrease offerings yet again. I disagree with you. This is our public money we are are playing with. Parents are clearly choosing inferior charters based on all sorts of PR reasons. And our money is going to support those choices at the expense of the educational opportunities for the majority. And as a nation, we want the majority well educated. We need to maximize performance at the public schools, taking into account that they will never all be equal given demographic differences, and that does in fact take resources. You know... Money.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 2:03 p.m.

Obviously some districts should have been proactive in preparing students for the test when the cut scores were raised.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

I think the science scores indicate an area of great concern for the state of Michigan. Or the science tests need to be looked at as for realistic learning expectations per grade level.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 3:41 p.m.

The science test is given in fifth grade and asks students questions about every science unit they've had since Kindergarten. It's basically a memory test and has little to do with the scientific method.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 1:52 p.m.

Eyeheart, such dramatic spin. The charters as a whole did MUCH, much worse than the public schools. You can pick out a few data points that are otherwise, but the overall picture is quite clear. You want choice? Do it with your own money. This &quot;choice&quot; has proven itself unworthy. Don't take money away from the public schools unless you can really prove better value.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.

I think this is a total win for the Charter School concept, which is about giving students and parents choices and the ability to go someplace better. If I live in Milan, Lincoln or Ypsi, (below average schools), I would consider CHOOSING to send my kid to South Arbor Charter Academy (WAY above average) If I live in Ypsi or Willow Run, (Below Average Schools), I would consider CHOOSING to send my kids to Fortis Acadamey (Well above average) The rest of the schools don't seem better than the public schools in the area, so I would CHOOSE to send my kid to the public school. I thought we were all pro-choice around here?

Susie Q

Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 5:56 p.m.

Another problem is that the charter schools do not have as much oversight as public schools. I believe the chartering authority should shut down the low performing charter schools or place them in the new state-run &quot;school district for low-performing schools&quot;. Companies that run poorly performing charter schools. especially for-profit businesses, should be permitted to operate MORE charters.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 4:36 p.m.

The better comparison is look at Ypsi, willow run lincol etc. and compare them to the charters.... These are the kids with no hope and no choices. They are the kids who need charters.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 2:07 p.m.

You obviously didn't look at a map. Why wouldn't you choose to move your kid from a horribly underperforming school like Ypsi, into an above average Charter, like South Arbor Charter Academy. AA isn't taking Ypsi's kids, so that isn't a choice. Why bring it up?


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 2 p.m.

You obviously did not read the table. It shows that the highest performing charter school scores 20% lower than Ann Arbor and Saline Schools. If you are going to chose, chose the best option, not one that a bit better but still failing.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 12:46 p.m.

Wow. Looks like all those charter schools that ciphon money away from the public schools in the name of &quot;choice&quot; are a great value, eh? And congrats to AAPS and Saline, who are at the top of the Washtenaw County pack. Especially impressive for AAPS given their more diverse demographics. Having said all that, I still take these results with a grain of salt, as we know they measure so much more about socioeconomic status than they should.


Tue, Feb 21, 2012 : 2:52 a.m.

A2anon must have tenure in the public schools that enjoy 33% more funding, have an affluent population, and consider high income families of different ethnic backgrounds &quot;diversity&quot;. You should taking those golden blinders off.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 5:06 p.m.

A2anon, A2Reality, a2flow - I stand by my quick analysis. The scores rose more on average at the charters than they did for the public schools in the county. That was my statement and I will stand by it. Until we get the next two levels of detail behind these scores, that is about all that can be said. Given the starting populations are not know and the demographics of the schools are not known and which school systems students were in last year, anything other than a superficial statement like I made is worthless. A meaningful debate can only be had when we have more detail, and we don't.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 2:41 p.m.

@DonBee...I am failing to see what you are saying with the math scores. The state average for 8th grade math for 2010 and 2011...from 29 to 38. AAPS = 62.1 to 62.4. The charter average went from 29 to 36, which is way below AAPS and furthermore, did not keep pace with the state averages. Of the charters listed, the only charter above AAPS is South Charter Academy (78 to 76). I am not sure if you failed to understand the data or if this is just an attack on public education? I would caution looking strictly at the data (not that it doesn't have its uses) and formulating opinions, but if you do, at least look at the data and then form opinions. I don't know anything about South Arbor Charter. Maybe it's worth looking into how they do well and what the student sample size is. AAPS has approximately 1200-1500 students taking the 8th grade MEAP, which of course makes the data sample less prone to wild fluctuations. With that said, instruction can always be improved, at ANY school. Your post makes it look like your bias is forming your opinions rather than the data.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 2:34 p.m.

@DonBee - If you look at the data again for that type of comparison, the standard deviation associated with your applied analysis is so large that the results are meaningless for the Charter schools. No t-test would support your claim. There is simply too much variability to draw any conclusions from the data, particularly a &quot;Charter improved more than Public schools&quot; claim.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 1:11 p.m.

DonBee, I think you are working way too hard to find some good news about the charters. Proficiency in Math went from 35.7% in 2010 to 36.6% in 2011. Reading proficiency went from 61% to 64%. Don't let you biases cloud your ability to face the facts.


Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 1:04 p.m.

If I compare the year over year improvement of the charter schools and the public schools, the charters (on average) do better than the public schools. So if you compare 2010 math to 2011 math, the charters improved more than the public schools did. None of the districts did well enough to make me happy. I agree with Mr. Ranzini - it is time to look at what tools, programs and methods are being used to teach children. I did some looking on the site he recommended against the books my children bring home. Only one is a recommended text book. AAPS teachers it seems are swimming upstream against the current textbooks. Of course change in texts and programs will not come, since the current generation of math books were chosen to minimize loss of self esteem for students, and minimize the issues for math phobic teachers.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 12:25 p.m.

@Danny Shaw: The data table is excellent and very useful reporting! Why not FOIA all the school districts in the county for the info on which textbooks and teaching programs are being used and then have a class at the U-M or EMU school of education compare the data with the U.S. Department of Education &quot;Find What Works&quot; database as a class project? For everyone else, why wait. You could take a few minutes out of your holiday and post here the school, grade and name of the textbooks your children are using there. If you are feeling ambitious, check the &quot;Find What Works&quot; database (<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> to see how effective or ineffective that textbook is and post that too. We could assemble a lot of the data today.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Mon, Feb 20, 2012 : 11:43 a.m.

It's my understanding that 60% is considered a &quot;passing grade&quot; now and that previously 40% was. Of course on a multiple choice test with five answer choices, you can get 20% by having a pulse and just guessing, so a 60% score would mean you only know exactly half the material, which is a very unimpressive amount of knowledge. When I was in school a 60% score earned a grade of &quot;F&quot;. In Ann Arbor here are the average results of all grades in 2011: Math 33% failed, Reading 19% failed, Writing 28% failed, Science 64% failed, Social Studies 46% failed. What should be do about the fact that so many of our children are being condemned to a life trapped in poverty? I have a suggestion, the Department of Education has a wonderful website where they rate textbooks and recognized teaching methods by their effectiveness (or lack of), based on scientific observations of peer reviewed data. It's called &quot;Find What Works&quot;, see <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Some of the text books and teaching methods being used in Ann Arbor schools are rated as being &quot;ineffective&quot; by this data. For example some of the math textbooks being used are rated as &quot;ineffective&quot;, even having a negative impact on student performance! Let's have the schools post a list of all the textbooks and teaching methods being used in all grades and then compare them versus the data available, and then come up with a budget for how much it would cost to replace each ineffective teaching program and textbook with a program and textbook that is scientifically demonstrated to be effective! I am sure that if the schools didn't have the money to fund this change and came to the voters with a proposal to fund the cost of moving from ineffective textbooks and teaching methods to effective ones, the voters would quickly approve that. I'd be happy to advocate for that in any way possible. Wouldn't you?