Utica Schools Will 'Pick Up the Pace' in Science, Digital Learning, Superintendent Says
Superintendent Dr. Christine Johns said recent 2012 MEAP results show a need to strengthen science instruction across the district.
Though pleased with overall student performance on the 2012 Michigan Educational Assessment Program, or MEAP test, Utica Community Schools’ superintendent says there is always room for improvement, namely in the area of science.
“We’re pleased with the performance overall, specifically in the area of math, which showed increased growth in all grades,” said Superintendent Dr. Christine Johns. “If you look at numbers across the county, you’ll observe our performance is very consistent in all of our subject areas and we’re pleased about that.”
According to results released Monday, Utica students scored above state average in every subject and grade level tested by the 2012 MEAP. Taken during fall 2012, the MEAP tests public school students in grades 3-9 in math, reading, writing, social studies and/or science depending on the grade level.
Utica saw its greatest gains in third and fifth-grade math, where the number of students deemed “proficient” in the subject climbed more than 10 percentage points and far outpaced the state average. However, science continued to be the district's weak spot, with fifth and eighth-grade scores dropping slightly from 2011, although they remained significantly above state averages.
“With the state recalibrating the test scores to make us more college ready, we focused on maintaining high performance in mathematics and reading, as those are the areas in which we are held accountable for our school report card,” Johns said. “Moving forward, we recognize that to achieve the new benchmarks, we need to continue our work in the digital curriculum and strengthen our science curriculum as well.”
In recent years, UCS has enhanced its digital learning options by increasing at-home access to classroom work, piloting the use of iPads and associated software to address students’ individual educational needs and encouraging teachers to develop interactive lessons using Smartboard technology.
As a new online exam is set to replace the MEAP during the 2014-15 school year, Johns said it is hoped that this emphasis on digital content will help prepare students for the new test's format.
She added that the district will also “pick up the pace and intensify” instruction in science in the immediate future.
“It’s not that we weren’t teaching science before, but it wasn’t being given the same level of attention and accountability (by the state),” Johns said. “The fact of the matter is new assessments will require an application of knowledge which is a little different. There is more interpreting and reading, more critical thinking” that will require a change in instruction.
While Johns acknowledges the importance of the 2012 MEAP results, she said what is equally important is “looking to the future in terms of levels of performance in the new common core and new state standards that will be administered.”
“We continue as a state to raise the standards for our kids, asking them to perform at higher levels than we have previously asked them to perform at and that relates to the job of tomorrow.”
On the whole, Michigan students showed improvement in reading, math and writing in 2012, with the improvement seen in all grades and most demographic groups.