South Lake Schools celebrates release of middle school from priority list

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published January 31, 2017

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — Scores released from the Michigan Department of Education have local schools celebrating their success.

New school accountability scorecards rate schools on how well they meet a variety of benchmarks, with scores in red indicating that the schools have not met the proficiency or growth benchmarks on a continuum through orange, yellow, lime and finally to green, indicating those that did meet those benchmarks.

This is the last time that the color-coded scorecards and top-to-bottom list will be used, as the MDE is developing a new accountability system in compliance with the new federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA. 

“With the continued improvements to our state assessment system, we promised to still be transparent and hold schools accountable for student achievement,” state Superintendent Brian Whiston stated in a press release.

The scorecards, he said, allow schools to look at the data to see which groups of students need more attention and individualized instruction.

“A major part of accountability is transparency and the communication of information to schools, parents and their communities,” he said.

In South Lake Schools, administrators are proud of their progress, and the early removal of South Lake Middle School from priority school status. John Thero, South Lake director of instruction and assessment, said that means that no South Lake schools are on the list of schools needing more focus from the state.

“We’re very, very happy about that,” he said. “It really is the hard work of the teachers and the students and the parents. That community at the middle school has come together to benefit the students there. The community has really engaged, so we’ve got programs that are being run by parents over there; we’ve got programs that the teachers are doing.

“I don’t attribute it to any one strategy we’re doing.”

South Lake Middle School was identified as a priority school in 2014 and should not have been able to be removed from the list until 2018 at the earliest, but because of the great progress it has made toward achieving the benchmarks, Thero said it was released early.

To be released, the middle school had to reach 95 percent state assessment participation, achieve annual measurable objectives in math and reading/English language arts, and rank above the 5th percentile of schools on the state’s top-to-bottom list.

District officials celebrated with middle school students and staff with a cake when they were notified of the release. 

“It was really our moment to provide some recognition (to) the kids and the teachers,” Thero said. 

Earning lime status as a district, which means that it achieved 87.9 percent of its status points, is something the district is proud of. Thero said there are two points for every benchmark the state sets forth, such as compliance factors like testing all of a district’s children and benchmarks for achievement overall, and then in categories such as the bottom 30 percent of students, black students, students with two or more races, white students, economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities.

As a district, South Lake scored two on most of those factors, with the exception of the bottom 30 percent of students.

Thero said it is difficult to show growth or proficiency with the bottom 30 percent of scorers, but South Lake Middle School was able to achieve that benchmark in science. That was the only subject in any school to achieve that benchmark.

“We’re very happy with where we are, and we’re going to continue to do the things that we need to do to improve,” Thero said.

Lakeview Public Schools achieved 77.8 percent of its status points, putting it at yellow on the scorecard scale. It earned two for all subgroups except for the bottom 30 percent and also students with disabilities, where it earned zero. 

Assistant Superintendent Tracy Van Peeren said that Lakeview is showing growth with students in the bottom 30 percent and students with disabilities subgroups, “but unfortunately, not at the rate that has been identified by the state.”

“Of course, we would have loved to be lime green for all of our buildings, but are still very proud of the work that our staff and students are doing to improve scores across the board,” she continued in an email message.

In Lakeview, Ardmore, Greenwood and Harmon elementary schools reached lime status, while Jefferson Middle School, Lakeview High School and Princeton Elementary School were named as having yellow status.

She said that the school report cards are only one data source they use to measure academic progress by their students.

“Our staff continues to be committed to meeting the needs of our students and to staying focused on moving students forward in their learning,” she said.

Lake Shore Public Schools achieved 81 percent of its status points, putting it at yellow on the scale as well. It also achieved two in all subgroups except for the bottom 30 percent of students and most students with disabilities, in which it also earned zero points, although it achieved two for students with disabilities tested in science.

Calls to Lake Shore officials seeking comment were not returned by press time.

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