Local schools score across spectrum of Top-to-Bottom list

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published August 26, 2014

ST. CLAIR SHORES — A local school is on the Priority School list of the bottom 5 percent of schools as ranked top to bottom, according the Michigan Department of Education.

South Lake Middle School had a statewide percentile rank of 4, making it a Priority School for 2014.

South Lake Director of Instruction and Assessment John Thero said that the middle school’s achievement rankings place it in the middle of the pack in Macomb County. But the Top-to-Bottom rankings also take into account a school’s improvement level over four years and the achievement gap between the highest and lowest achievers, Thero said.

“At our middle school … we’ve got decent achievement. Our improvement slope is going down; it’s negative in most areas,” Thero said.

He said over the past several years, the district has seen students entering its district around the middle school level with high needs they weren’t prepared to address right away. He said he has met with teachers at that school, however, as well as the new principal, Michael Bruce, to let them know the school’s designation and to work with them to focus on areas that need to be addressed.

The school is required to submit a plan of improvement to the state because of the priority listing; it will be fully implemented in the second semester of the school year. But Thero said they’ve already made some improvements, revamping six sections of math intervention classes to analyze student skills and deficits.

Also in South Lake Schools, Koepsell Education Center — with a 18 percentile ranking — is on the focus schools list, meaning that its achievement gap between its highest and lowest performing students is very large.

“Koepsell has actually been a focus school for a couple of years,” said Thero.

He said the school is working to address that gap with help from a Michigan Department of Education Achievement Gap pilot project called African-American Young Men of Promise that helps teachers utilize a strategy that includes phone calls home, better use of technology and cultural understanding to focus on bringing the lowest student achievement levels up.

The district already implements targeted reading programs and will be starting a similar initiative for math in elementary and the middle school levels in the district.

Lake Shore Public Schools buildings rank in the middle of the percentile pack, in the 40-60th percentile, and on the other end of the spectrum, two of Lakeview Public Schools’ buildings have been named reward schools.

With an 83rd percentile ranking for Lakeview High School and a rank of the 76th percentile for Princeton Elementary, both schools made that list of the top 5 percent of schools on the top-to-bottom ranking and the top 5 percent of schools making the greatest academic progress over four years.

“What you do every day and how you deliver quality programming for kids leads you to the results on whatever system the state uses,” said Lakeview Superintendent Karl Paulson. “We aren’t so focused on what the system is; we know that if we focus on students and the quality programs we deliver, the results will take care of themselves.”

In Lakeview, Paulson said they use student data to build intervention tailored to the student at all levels, so that they “move the whole pool.”

“That’s one of the differences, when you have school districts that have focus schools … they’re delivering quality programs for their average to above-average kids, and they’re leaving kids behind.”

In Lakeview, he said, the two schools received reward status because of all students improving achievement over the course of several years.

“It’s a team effort,” he said. “The weakest kids, the average kids and the strongest kids are all moving up together.”

To find your school’s individual Scorecard and Top to Bottom Ranking, visit mischooldata.org.