Greenville board focuses on creating academic achievement environment

By Emilee Nielsen • Last Updated 9:18 am on Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Greenville Public Schools Board of Education members discuss the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress during Monday evening’s meeting. — Daily News/Emilee Nielsen

GREENVILLE — Standardized testing has become an established part of public education.

It’s used to gauge students academically and to gauge the efficacy of teachers. One such tool is the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (MSTEP).

Greenville Public Schools is working toward a cultural shift in their classrooms to give students the most positive learning environment possible in relation to this test.

“We’ve really encouraged buildings to promote the MSTEP and the positive piece that come about that with students,” Superintendent Linda Van Houten said. “We want to encourage them that they can do well on that.

“We feel like it gets a lot of negative press — the MSTEP and state testing. It is something we need to do and is something we’re held accountable for. We do want our kids to do their absolute best.”

According to the Michigan Department of Education, the MSTEP is a summative assessment that is given at different grade levels based on four core educational elements; math, language arts, science and social studies.

On the state level, the time the department of education requires to be devoted to the MSTEP is being scaled back in certain grade levels in order to give students the chance to focus on other things.

“At the 11th grade level, they reduced the MSTEP because of the SAT as well,” Chief Academic Officer Michelle Blaszczynski said. “Last year, our 11th-graders had 18 hours of testing, which we feel is excessive.”

Other ways the district is utilizing to grow student academic achievement is by organizing summer school opportunities for early literacy, in order to help students who are behind catch up.

“This is a literacy opportunity for students going into first, second and third grades next year,” Blaszczynski said. “We’re able to pay for it with a literacy grant we received from the state of Michigan.”

The grant, which totals just above $48,000, gives the district the added opportunity to transport students to the summer program. The classes will be at Walnut Hills from  8:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Monday through Thursday the weeks of June 20, June 27, July 11, July 18 and July 25.

Blaszczynski also reported to the board that the district is looking at ways to keep various media centers in the district open year-round on a rotating schedule to make books more readily available to kids. This is an effort to prevent students from sliding back over the prolonged break from school.

Another item Blaszczynski brought to the attention of the board is new material for the purposes of reproductive health education. The curriculum committee met last month to review new videos to use as part of the reproductive health curriculum, Blaszczynski said.

The content of the curriculum has not changed, but the videos students will see have been updated. The curriculum is available for parental review under the curriculum page on the school district’s website.

“We wanted to bring that for information because we did receive approval from our curriculum committee for material to use next year,” she said. “We’ll bring that back for a decision next (meeting).”

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