Center Line, WarrenAugust 10, 2012
New state classifications identify excelling, struggling schools
By Cortney Casey and Maria Allard
C & G Staff Writers
A revamped method of classifying results — touted by the Michigan Department of Education as providing “greater transparency” — is shaping the latest Michigan School Report Card grades.
Newly established “reward,” “focus” and “priority” categories denote schools that are highest in achievement or multi-year progress levels, have “wide achievement between various student populations” and “need to improve their attention on student learning,” respectively.
“We are committed to closing the achievement gaps in all of our schools for all of our students,” state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan said in a prepared statement. “With this measure of transparency, schools will be identified and held accountable for achievement of all of their students.”
This year, 286 Michigan schools fell into the reward category, which encompasses the top 5 percent in the annual Top-to-Bottom ranking and the top 5 percent demonstrating the greatest academic progress over the last four years. Additional schools deemed “Beating the Odds” schools will be added to that list later this fall.
Another 358 — the 10 percent of schools registering the widest gap between their highest- and lowest-achieving 30 percent of students — were deemed focus schools.
The MDE is developing a “district toolkit” for districts with focus schools, and plans to supply MDE-trained and funded district improvement facilitators to provide technical assistance in using them.
The 146 priority schools, previously referred to as “persistently lowest achieving schools,” represent the bottom 5 percent in the annual Top-to-Bottom ranking and any high school with a graduation rate below 60 percent for three consecutive years.
Priority schools, now under the authority of the State School Reform Office, must implement an “intervention model” and show substantial growth. Failure to do so can lead to placement in the Education Achievement Authority school system, a statewide program that will operate the lowest performing districts and those overseen by an emergency manager.
Districtwide Adequate Yearly Progress — a factor in the report card grades that determines whether schools meet perpetually increasing targets, aiming for 100 percent proficiency by 2014 — was calculated this year as a whole instead of separately at elementary, middle school and high school levels as in the past. As a result, 48 percent of Michigan’s 262 districts did not make AYP this year, compared with 6.7 percent last year, MDE reported.
However, at the individual school building level, the number shifted little, with 82 percent of buildings achieving AYP versus 79 percent last year.
The MDE attributed the changes to “flexibility” granted by the U.S. Department of Education regarding the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which will also result in elimination of the AYP measure altogether.
Starting next year, the state plans to adopt an “accountability scorecard,” which relies on a color-coded system “to recognize varying levels of achievement accountability” for all schools and districts, according to the MDE.
Warren Consolidated Schools had no priority schools, but did have six focus schools — Fillmore and Pearl Lean elementaries, Flynn and Grissom middle schools, and Sterling Heights and Warren Mott high schools — and two reward schools, Black and Jefferson elementaries.
Eighteen WCS schools made AYP, earning School Report Card grades of A’s and B’s, with the exception of North Star Academy, the alternative middle school, which was ungraded.
Another seven did not make AYP, including all three traditional high schools. For most, the MDE chalked the reason up to performance among subgroups, which includes such populations as limited English proficiency, economically disadvantaged, with disabilities, etc. Of those seven, Beer, Flynn and Grissom middle schools received B’s, SHHS and Mott received C’s and Butcher Community Center’s Community High School was ungraded.
While WCS spokesman Robert Freehan said the district was pleased with the reward schools, he characterized the report cards as “a piece of information.”
“We’re not ignoring it, but it’s just some information that doesn’t really rend to be useful for much of anything at this point,” he said, though he did note that the focus designations will place more stringent guidelines on which buildings receive WCS’ Title I funding.
Freehan said WCS is focusing on its own ongoing school improvement plans and dealing with such challenges as the large percentage of refugee students, who may have had limited prior education, and the “transient nature” of much of the student population.
He also announced that, starting in September, WCS will administer the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills at every grade level in the fall and spring to measure progress across the school year.
The “well-respected” standardized test is widely used across the U.S., he said, and the immediately available results will help WCS get a better idea of how its students compare to counterparts nationwide.
“Our goal … is really to have students show one year’s growth for each year of school they are with us, at a minimum,” said Freehan.
The results were good news for Fitzgerald Public Schools.
“All of our schools made AYP,” FPS Superintendent Barbara VanSweden said. “Fitzgerald High School and Schofield Elementary School earned a place on the reward list. It’s good news because it means the high school and Schofield were among the top 5 percent of schools in the state of Michigan that made the greatest academic progress over the previous four years, and Fitzgerald High School was the only high school in Macomb County to earn a place on the reward list.”
VanSweden attributed the success to various factors.
“We are making sure that we are teaching the curriculum fully and completely at each grade level,” VanSweden said. “We have set high expectations for our students. We have communicated these expectations to students and parents. We have had a very supportive board of education.”
Providing professional development for teachers also has been vital. Although the results were positive for Fitzgerald, now is not the time to become complacent.
“We have to remember that our work has to continue if we are going to continue achieving academic success,” VanSweden said.
All five Center Line Public Schools and all five Warren Woods Public Schools buildings made AYP. Each school earned a C grade.
In Van Dyke Public Schools, Lincoln Middle School and Carlson Elementary School each made AYP, with a C and a B grade, respectively. According to the MDE, Lincoln High School, Kennedy Elementary and McKinley Elementary schools did not make AYP. LHS received a D grade while Kennedy and McKinley each received C grades. A score for Lincoln Elementary was not available, according to the MDE.
For more information on AYP and the Michigan School Report Cards, visit www.michigan.gov/mde.
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