BY ANGIE JACKSON
TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City public school students continue to trail their peers statewide in standardized math test scores.
But there's a silver lining for area educators: The district made gains from last year's proficiency scores.
The state Department of Education released Fall 2012 results of the Michigan Educational Assessment Program, or MEAP, this week. The test is annually administered to third through ninth grade students, and all grades except ninth are tested in math.
TCAPS math proficiency scores improved at each grade level except seventh and eighth, where scores both dropped by about 3 percent.
"I think the thing we're happiest about is, the growth rate from last year to this year was significant," TCAPS superintendent Stephen Cousins said. "And that means we're heading in the right direction, but we're not at the level we want to be."
Students throughout the Traverse Bay area exceeded state averages for proficient scores in reading, science, social studies and writing at all grade levels, according to the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District.
Regional proficient math scores increased from 2011 by nearly 4 percent, but continue to lag behind the state average.
Improvement was notable at Westwoods Elementary in Traverse City, where grades third through fifth exceeded state averages in mathematics, Cousins said.
The school this year aimed to shift students from a mindset that they're either born with or without math skills, said principal Sander Scott.
Westwoods implemented math connections notebooks that students take to elective classes, such as physical education, music and Spanish, to teach that math exists beyond the traditional class period. For example, kids drawing self portraits may be instructed to measure shapes and angles and log in their notebook.
They share their findings once a week with other students across grade levels to revisit what they've learned.
Scott said the different approach may have contributed to improved standardized test scores, but that's not what he and teachers are after.
"The tests aren't an end to themselves. We're after really having kids think and become mathematicians, and we believe that by doing that the test scores will follow," he said.
Glen Lake, Kingsley and Elk Rapids also showed improved performance across all subjects, said Jason Jeffrey, a TBAISD assistant superintendent.
Cousins said educators are happy but not content with this year's improvements. The district will continue to identify curriculum gaps with assessments, one of them being the newly implemented Northwest Evaluation Association test administered three times a year.
For more information about MEAP results, visit mi.gov/mde.