It’s not very often that state and local-level government officials meet eye-to-eye.
But last Wednesday, that’s exactly what happened in the Oxford school district
State Superintendent Brian Whiston, from the Michigan Department of Education, made an appearance in the Oxford School District for a four hour-long tour with district officials, exploring all the district has to offer.
Whiston joined Oxford Superintendent Tim Throne and other school officials at the administration building (10 N. Washington St.) in downtown Oxford before touring various schools from the district. Stops included Oxford Elementary, Oxford Virtual Academy, Oxford Middle School and Oxford High School.
During his visit, Whiston was given an overview of Oxford School’s various programs like the International Baccalaureate Programme, the Fifth Core World Languages program, Oxford Virtual Academy and Oxford Schools Early College program.
Whiston said it is crucial for state officials to pair with district officials, acting as a team to provide better education for students.
“The only way to know what’s going on is to have conversations about the assessment system, about the things we’re doing at the state and how we can do them in a way that helps districts be successful… we need to learn what’s taking place in the classrooms,” Whiston said. “Some of the people at the state level, like myself, just left a local district… others haven’t been in local districts in a long time or never (have been). Understanding (how our decisions) impact administrators, teachers and, most importantly, students is important.”
To Throne, the event was mutually beneficial to the Oxford district as officials work through the strategic process this year.
“This is just another good example of us being able to really ask the state superintendent specific questions… more in-depth questions and (learn) how to apply that directly to us, so that Oxford can gain a better idea of where we want to go in the future,” Throne said.
Overall, Whiston said he was pleased with the recent strides he has seen the district make in education.
“Oxford (gives students freedom) by (providing) these multiple pathways for students to choose from and I think that engages and excites students. The real-world problem-solving and (allowing students) to take a product, go through the design, build and implementation of it, as we saw in some of the classrooms… it’s just exciting and it’s what we want to see in districts all over the state. I think Oxford is literally a shining example of where we want to head,” Whiston said.
With all of the good things Whiston encountered in the Oxford school district, he did offer some ideas to bring Michigan closer to becoming a top-ten state in education.
Michigan is currently ranked at number 41 nationally, according to a recent report by non-partisan organization Education Trust-Midwest.
“Overall, my goal is to reduce testing,” Whiston said. “The tests we do have I want (them) to give school districts, parents and teachers information on grade-level equivalency.”
Whiston’s vision for districts throughout the state involves improved use of benchmark assessment testing through a combination of M-STEP and SAT testing.
He also said the state is working to produce faster results in testing feedback to allow improvements to be made in the classroom more quickly.
M-STEP testing is administered to students in the following grades and subjects: language arts and mathematics will be assessed in grades 3–8; science in grades 4, 7 and 11; and social studies in grades 5, 8 and 11. The SAT is a standardized test for high school students widely used for college admissions.