Shelby TownshipAugust 15, 2012
New state classifications identify excelling, struggling schools
By Brad D. Bates and Cortney Casey
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.
Utica Community Schools saw all of its buildings receive A’s and B’s on their report cards and had six reward schools — Crissman Elementary, Davis Junior High, Messmore Elementary, Morgan Elementary, Richard Duncan Elementary and Switzer Elementary — recognized as “reward” institutions.
“We’re very pleased at Utica Community Schools that all our schools received Adequate Yearly Progress,” UCS Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Robert Monroe said.
“(AYP) is a measure that we are looked for to accomplish. But we certainly push forward so that all our students are pursuing college and career readiness.”
The district did not have any “priority” schools, but had seven buildings — Stevenson High School, Bruce Collins Elementary, Burr Elementary, Dekeyser Elementary, Dresden Elementary, Jenneatte Junior High and Heritage Junior High — tabbed as “focus” schools.
Monroe said his district welcomes the changes in rating and any added insight they may provide, but that all ratings are used for the same purpose: extending student achievement.
“There are different lenses to look at accomplishments,” Monroe said of the changes. “We are always committed to setting a high standard for kids.”
For more information on AYP and the Michigan School Report Cards, visit www.michigan.gov/mde.
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