Don't believe the hype!
Like the pictures shown below comparing the Bay City Academy's shuttered and foreclosed Madison Arts campus from the school's Facebook page (at left) and in the abandoned building in this morning's hard, cold daylight, the real truth is much harsher.
Its Farragut campus ranked in the 83rd percentile.
Ingersoll's Bay City Academy also operates the North Central Academy in Mancelona. The Mancelona campus went from the 13th percentile to the 77th percentile, based on the most recent M-STEP scores.
The Bay City Times took a measured view of the results, unlike an online rag called The Livingston Post, which features the work of one Buddy Moorehouse, the Director of Communications at the Michigan Association of Public School Academies (MAPSA).
Moorehouse was likely the writer of two pieces gushing like a fire hose about the Bay City Academy and its Mancelona campus.
Here are a couple howlers from the Moorehouse creative writing festival:
“The Bay City Academy Madison Arts Campus, which had been in the zero percentile, shot all the way up to the 39th percentile. The Bay City Academy Farragut Campus, meanwhile, ranked in the 83rd percentile – outperforming every other elementary school in Bay City.”
Moorehouse outdoes himself on this one:
“North Central Academy improved by a whopping 64 points in the rankings, going from the 13th percentile to the 77th percentile. That sort of improvement is almost unheard-of, and school officials were understandably elated.”
You can compare the 2015-2016 results against the previous ranking, done for 2013-2014:
As I wrote last summer, my analysis of the 2016 M-STEP test results, released August 30, 2016, revealed what appeared to be abnormally high scores at the Bay City Academy, most notably in the charter school's 4th grade and 7th grade math results.
The Bay City Academy, founded by convicted felon Steven Ingersoll, dubbed "a sorry excuse for a school" by Bay City State Rep. Charles Brunner, is operating under a five-year deficit elimination plan.
Brunner's April 5, 2016 comment was part of a statement expressing frustration with the MDE's approval of the Bay City Academy's deficit elimination plan.
“The Bay City Academy has objectively failed both academically and financially in recent years,” said Rep. Brunner “Nothing in the deficit elimination plan offered by the Bay City Academy has given me faith that the academy is serious about educating the students attending their sorry excuse for a school.”
Did the pressure to deliver improved academic results in order to keep the money tap gushing (and promised improvements as outlined in the charter school's April 2015 redesign plan) drive the Bay City Academy to provide assistance to students taking the test?
Although my statistical analysis cannot determine if the improved scores are the result of cheating, in my opinion, there are glaring anomalies when compared to statewide averages.
An examination of Michigan's statewide math averages reveals the 4th grade math proficiency percentage increased slightly from 41.4% to 44%.
The statewide 7th grade math proficiency increased slightly year-over-year, going from 33.3% in 2015 to 35.3% in 2016.
However, the Bay City Academy, which had been named to Michigan's priority schools list for the last two years, with achievement scores landing it in the bottom five percent of all Michigan public schools, somehow managed to pull off stunning results.
For example, 4th grade math proficiency percentage for all buildings (in this case, the Farragut and North Central Academy campuses) jumped by 14.64 points, an increase of 64 percent over the previous year.
The 7th grade math proficiency test results for all buildings (Madison Arts and Mancelona's North Central Academy) were even more impressive, jumping by 18.86 points, representing an 86 percent increase over 2015 results.
However, if you looked at 6th grade math results for all buildings at the Bay City Academy, expecting to find the same spectacular results as seen in the 7th grade, you'd be disappointed. The 6th grade proficiency percentage dropped from 17.14% in 2015 down to 8.33% — a 51 percent plunge.
While 4th grade math proficiency results at Bay City's Farragut campus dropped by 13 percent, sliding to 32.35% in 2016 from 37.5% in 2015, Mancelona's North Central Academy delivered staggering numbers—literally.
The North Central Academy campus delivered 4th grade math results that skyrocketed up 374 percent, growing from 10.53% in 2015 to 50% in 2016.
Campus-specific results for 7th grade math proficiency show similar anomalies, with Bay City Academy results far outpacing statewide averages: The Bay City Academy's Madison Arts campus delivered 7th grade math results that grew by 88 percent, growing from 17.65% in 2015 to 33.33% proficient in 2016.
The North Central Academy campus delivered 7th grade math results that jumped 87 percent, growing from 26.67% proficient in 2015 to 50% in 2016.
But chew on this: the North Central Academy's 6th grade math results fell off a cliff. While 2015's results showed a 26.67% proficiency, 2016 results plunged to below 10%.
When compared to the statewide averages, the Bay City Academy's results look suspicious, and even more so when compared with other surrounding Bay County public schools.
For example, Bay City Public Schools district-wide results reveal 4th grade math proficiency went from 37.56% to 42.99% (an increase of 14 percent) and 7th grade math proficiency stayed relatively steady, increasing to 29.9% in 2016 from 29.86% in 2015.
Essexville-Hampton's 7th grade results improved, although not on the scale of the Bay City Academy's.
Math proficiency rose from 29.86% in 2015 to 37.41% in 2016, an overall increase, year-over-year, of 25 percent.
In my opinion, it's highly suspect that a bottom-feeder like the Bay City Academy would test significantly higher than neighboring schools and Michigan's state average.
Instead, could the charter school's students have been coached during testing, alerted if they answered a question incorrectly or guided to the right answer?
But without a formal investigation, we'll likely never know.