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September 18, 2013

Hazel Park High sees massive jump in performance review

New z-score shows test prep, tutoring and curriculum is working

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

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Hazel Park High sees massive jump in performance review
A new school year has begun at Hazel Park High School, where faculty and staff are celebrating good news from the state: The school is now in the 48th percentile of schools in terms of their z-score — a combination of ACT and MEAP scores, graduation rates and the achievement gap. This is up from the fifth percentile the year before.

HAZEL PARK — At the close of the 2011-12 school year, Hazel Park High received sobering news: Its z-score put them in the fifth percentile among all schools statewide. This meant HPHS had to implement a “priority plan” to turn things around in 2012-13. And it did, with spectacular results: Its new and improved z-score now places it in the 48th percentile of schools.

The z-score is a performance metric used by the Michigan Department of Education, looking at ACT and MEAP scores, graduation rates, and the achievement gap between the lowest 20 percent of students and highest 20 percent of students.

“We’ve gone up a whole point on the ACT; we improved in all areas of the MEAP; our graduation rate is exceptional; and we’ve lowered our achievement gap, meaning we’ve done better with our lower kids, so more are at the high end,” said Hazel Park High Principal Don Vogt. “From that, we received our improved score, from 5 to 48 percent. I would’ve been pleased to hit 25, but to hit 48? Even better.”

The road to improvement began with a new focus on preparing juniors for the ACT. The school enlisted the services of a group called Mally, which came in and provided a workshop for the teachers on ACT strategies.

“It cost a couple thousand dollars, but we knew we had to improve the ACT,” Vogt said. “And when you start to work on test strategies, it helps you with taking standardized tests across the board. So we really pressed and pressed the ACT with the juniors.”

Hazel Park High has also been involved in the Pearson Inform program through Oakland Schools, which helps them anticipate the learning needs of future juniors by looking at trends in the results of the Explore test in eighth grade and the Plan test in 10th grade. Both tests are ACT prerequisites.

This year, they’ve purchased Cambridge Learning, a comprehensive curriculum tailored to excelling at the Explore, Plan and ACT tests. Teachers now have access to workbooks across the curriculum, with practice lessons and model tests focusing on the four parts of the ACT: math, science, English and social sciences.

This semester, juniors are also required to take an ACT prep class with teachers in those core subjects, prepping them for all four parts of the ACT.

The school also has zero hour support, meaning students can come in early to make up missed credit. This past summer, students  were also able to take summer school and online credit recovery courses in the morning and afternoon, all at a greatly reduced rate.

“We went from, say, 35 students in summer school to maybe 100,” Vogt said. “The cost factor is big in this community.”

Last semester, the school also started offering tutoring with a teacher after school.

“I have some very young and enthusiastic teachers who have ideas you wouldn’t believe,” Vogt said. “The people who make this whole thing go are the staff; they’ve taken the bull by the horns. There are some great things going on in the classroom. I was just so impressed going around the halls on the first full day of the new school year.”

Hazel Park High currently has around 800 students. The graduation rate is typically more than 90 percent. Students who drop out find a good alternative at the Hazel Park Breakfast Club, an alternative program for at-risk youths, Vogt said.

Michael Barlow, director of curriculum at Hazel Park Public Schools, said they’re determined to continue making progress.

“When the school was designated a priority school, it was a wakeup call for everybody, and it electrified the high school staff. They immediately started taking steps to do interventions, to start seeking out new and better ways of assisting students, with new techniques and approaches,” Barlow said. “It was the jolt that was needed for Hazel Park High, and there have been very positive results.

“The jump to the 48th percentile is quite remarkable,” he said. “Now, whether we can increase another 43 percentiles next year might be an unreasonable goal to set, but it would be a worthwhile goal. … I think we will see sustained growth and even more improvement, and I think we’re all looking forward to that.”

Hazel Park High School, 23400 Hughes, can be reached at (248) 658-5100.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.