Harper Woods High removed from priority school list

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published February 8, 2017

HARPER WOODS — Thanks to improvements in student grades and test scores, Harper Woods High School has been removed from the Michigan School Reform/Redesign Office’s priority list.

Begun in 2010, the list includes schools that fall below acceptable averages in student achievement and have been specified by the state of Michigan as needing extra assistance.

Once placed on the list, schools must remain on it for at least four years in order to guarantee their improvements are permanent. Harper Woods High School was placed on the list in 2010, and Superintendent Todd Biederwolf said it quickly rose from being in the bottom 5 percent of Michigan schools. After being on the bubble for the last two years, Biederwolf said he is happy to see that the changes made in the district are sticking.

“We’re excited to be released from monitoring by the School Reform Office,” said Biederwolf. “It’s a clear sign in our positive trend in academic performance. Our staff has engaged in extensive professional development, and our curriculum and programs have evolved, and this is encouraging to see this hard work pay off for the district.”

The School Reform/Redesign Office credited Harper Woods High School’s staff for putting in the time to improve.

“Mr. Biederwolf does not use poverty as an excuse,” said Natasha Baker, the state school reform officer. “He believes all children can learn, and that paid off for Harper Woods High School enough to exit priority school status.”

The School Reform/Redesign Office looks at school location and achievement levels as factors in deciding which schools will be added or removed from the list. The office uses this data to form an assessment of the school, called the top-to-bottom rankings.

“The number of schools that will be released from the current and future school priority cohorts will depend on the schools’ performance on all exit criteria,” said Baker. “Schools must meet the following criteria: Schools must have a top-to-bottom rank of five or higher, the school must meet its annual measurable objective in both math and reading in the all-students subgroup, and schools must have at least a 95 percent participation rate on all required state assessments.”

A school’s annual measurable objective is the percentage of students proficient in tested subjects, based on variables unique to that individual school.

While on the list, the School Reform/Redesign Office supported school growth and improvement in the climate and culture of Harper Woods High School. Now that it has been removed, those resources are no longer available, but Biederwolf said the district no longer needs them to continue its forward momentum.

“When you are a priority school, you have access to some resources that enable your rapid turnaround that you no longer have when you are taken off the list,” said Biederwolf. “We don’t have access to those resources anymore, but we used the resources when we had them to improve our training and knowledge base so we could continue once those resources were no longer available.”

Biederwolf also wanted to acknowledge the Harper Woods community members who supported the school and credited them as a key reason for its improvement in recent years.