Dearborn Public Schools Superintendent Brian Whiston was pleased with the district's 2012 Michigan Educational Assessment Program results, which were released Monday by the Michigan Department of Education.
"We're very happy overall," Whiston said of the results after the Dearborn Board of Education's Monday night meeting. "But we'll never be really happy until we're leading the state in every subject."
In Dearborn, results trended upward in reading and writing, as well as math, but proficiency levels overall fell in higher grade levels, with the state outpacing Dearborn in every subject except writing by grades 7, 8 and 9.
More: Dearborn's 2012 MEAP Scores
During the MEAP exam, taken during fall 2012, public school students in grades 3-9 were tested in math, reading, writing, social studies and/or science depending on the grade level.
New scores demonstrate students, teachers 'rising to the challenge' of new standards
Across Michigan, students showed improvement in reading, math and writing in 2012, with the improvement seen in all grades and most demographic groups.
According to the MDE, students made the biggest jump in reading proficiency for third and eighth graders — with a 4.1 and 5.2 percent gain, respectively. Proficiency in math and writing also grew, with a 6.1 percent gain in fifth grade math.
Science scores dropped across the state in 2012, particularly in fifth and eighth grade.
"These gains demonstrate (that) Michigan's teachers and students are rising to the challenge of the rigorous standards established last year," said State Superintendent Mike Flanagan in a statement. "I am encouraged by the progress we are making in Michigan and look forward to the continued efforts to help all students achieve at a higher level in all subjects."
Scores across Michigan—including in Dearborn—took a hit in 2011 after the state implemented a new set of cut scores, which represent career- and college-ready achievement standards.
Dearborn scores show improvement in math and reading
For the 2012 MEAP, Dearborn showed vast improvement in math and reading scores in most grade levels. Third- and eighth-grade students were 56 and 63.4 percent proficient—jumps of 9 and 5.4 percent from 2011, respectively.
Math results peaked in fifth and sixth grades, where Dearborn students were 49 and 47.7 percent proficient—jumps of 4.3 and 4.9 percent from the previous year.
Writing also continues to be a bright spot for Dearborn, where fourth and seventh-grade students surpassed state standards for the second year in a row.
Whiston credited the strong focus on district literacy in recent years, including the implementation of the Daily 5/CAFE reading program.
"We have a focus on literacy ... throughout the district," he said, thanking staff, students and parents for their hard work.
However, while reading scores improved overall for Dearborn, the district fell below state averages in every grade level.
Another troubling trend for Dearborn was students' math proficiency—which dropped drastically year by year from fifth grade on. By eighth grade, 27.9 percent of Dearborn students were proficient in math for their grade level, compared to a peak of 49 percent in fifth grade.
While the trend of dropping math proficiency was true statewide, Dearborn's scores fell more quickly—by as much as 10 percentage points per year.
Whiston's reasoning for drops in math scores as students advanced was simple: the math gets really hard.
"Kids in middle school are doing what we did in high school," he said, but still named the subject as a particular area where he wants to see DPS improve.
For a school-by-school breakdown of how each school performed on the 2012 MEAP, visit School Data: How Did Dearborn Perform on the MEAP Test?