Kids Count data not telling true story for Manistee County

MANISTEE — There are times in the world of education when state released data doesn’t always tell the full story of student achievement.

Manistee Intermediate School District superintendent Jeff Jennette gives his report to the board of education at Tuesday's meeting.

Manistee Intermediate School District superintendent Jeff Jennette gives his report to the board of education at Tuesday’s meeting.

Members of the Manistee Intermediate School District were informed by superintendent Jeff Jennette that at first glance Kids Count Data that is being released by the state doesn’t paint an accurate picture of Manistee County students.

“We talked at our superintendent’s meeting today that we are going to share with the public just Manistee County data,” said Jennette.

Jennette said the schools that will be included in the data they release is Manistee Area Public, Bear Lake,  Onekama, Kaleva Norman Dickson, CASMAN Academy and Manistee Catholic Central. He said although the state includes the Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy in the Manistee County numbers, less than 10 of its roughly 2,700 students are from within the county. The remainder come from all over the state and that isn’t painting a true picture of student achievement in this county.

“What we want to do if the media calls is include only the data on how Manistee County students are doing,” said Jennette. “So when Kids Count data is including 2,700 kids that don’t even live in Manistee County the Kids Count may make us responsible for that data, but I want the true picture out there for everyone to see.”

Jennette said with the Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy numbers taken out of the data, the Manistee County students are rated much higher in graduation rates and test scores.

Board president Mary Becker-Witt said the true numbers are important to the community from an economic standpoint. She cited an example of a company or a large employer considering locating in the county.

“Say those companies are looking at what counties to go to, but education is important to them because they are in the tech world,” said Becker-Witt.  “So they look at the Kids Count data and they may choose not to come here because they don’t think their children will get a good education.”

Jennette said if any of those companies see the Kids Count data where the county ranks last in graduation rate or eighth grade math and last in third grade reading, they may be concerned about coming to Manistee County. He said that is why it is important to educate the public on how Manistee County students are really achieving in school.

When those revised numbers are completed and released a story will be printed in the News Advocate giving the data on just the Manistee County students.

General education director Jim Scranton also reported to the board that he plans to put together a cross section of educators from the ISD district to discuss some special education needs in the fall. That committee will include a local superintendent, principal, special education teacher, center based classroom teacher, ISD staff member Brooke Anderson and Scranton.

“The purpose of this group will be to discuss options for our programming for Emotionally Impaired and Moderately Cognitive Impaired (MoCI) classroom staffing needs,” Scranton reported. “This group will make a recommendation to Jeff and me and then we will have a discussion with local district superintendents.”

Scranton also reported to the board on the enrollment numbers for the ISD classrooms.

“Our classrooms numbers in the two MoCI classrooms will be up this fall,” said Scranton. “Our older group will have 27 students. We are looking at adding an additional ‘middle school’ classroom to relieve some of the high numbers. The classroom would include some older students from the younger MoCI classroom and some of the younger students from the Manistee High School classroom.”

Board members were also informed by Scranton that the State Office of Special Education will be beginning site visits to all ISDs starting in the fall of 2018 to look closely at how the ISD and local districts are meeting the requirements of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Sranton said the areas they will be providing training are:

n If superintendents, principals, special education teachers and ISD staff know what the requirements are for IDEA. They will break down the law into segments to make sure they have a clear understanding of IDEA;

n Are the districts properly implementing what IDEA is requiring; and

n What areas  can the ISD provide professional development/training assistance to help those who may not be meeting those requirements.

ISD general education direcctor Kay Salyer also delivered a monthly update for the board and discussed how the area schools are creating schedules to deliver assessments between April 10 and May 18.

“We shared a resource document with local schools with information on how to prepare for the M-STEP and SAT assessments,” said Salyer. “In our counselor network we offer opportunities for them to share resources and experiences about the test scheduling and administration.”

Salyer also reported that the honors band program that the ISD sponsors was another success this year. The program is put on the ISD’s Gifted and Talented program and includes band students from Manistee and Benzie counties.

“We also do the elementary Science Olympiad program that will take place this week and generally includes 250-350 students from all of the county schools,” said Salyer.

Since the Manistee Intermediate School District is the chartering agent for CASMAN Academy one of their duties is to appoint new board members. The board took action on a 5-0 vote to name Benjamin Beaumont to fill the board seat that has been vacant since Sarah Alden resigned. That term will run until June 2018.

Action was also taken on a 5-0 vote to accept with regret and congratulations the retirement of ISD teacher Cathy Janowiak, who was employed by the district for 27 years.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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