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August 29, 2013

GP analyzes new state report cards

Current shop slated to close this week

By April Lehmbeck
C & G Staff Writer

GROSSE POINTES — The new color-coded report cards and top-to-bottom rankings for 2012-13 were released last week, and districts have been working to digest the information.

It’s an elaborate formula. Ultimately, though, a goal is to show that schools are on their way to attaining the new goal of 85 percent proficiency by 2022. The previous goal, which was under No Child Left Behind, was for 100 percent proficiency by next year.

“This new color-coded system provides a meaningful diagnostic tool that gives schools, districts, parents and the public an easy way to identify strengths and weaknesses,” state Superintendent Mike Flanagan stated in a press release. “It provides greater transparency and detail on multiple levels of school performance.”

Those colors are green for schools that attain 85 percent or more of the possible points in the academic categories in which they are measured, lime for 70 percent to 84 percent, yellow for 60 percent to 69 percent, orange for 50 percent to 59 percent and red for fewer than 50 percent points.

The confusing thing, however, for many districts that other districts in the state try to emulate, like the Grosse Pointe Schools, is that they had schools that fell into the red category. While there is an explanation behind why the state categorized such high-performing schools into the lowest category, the situation is frustrating to school officials.

“For North and South to be in the bottom is just ridiculous,” board Treasurer Judy Gafa said of the new color-coded system, which put North and South in the red category. “I know it’s about the achievement gap, but these are high-performing schools. South is in the top 95 percent of the schools in the state, according to the data, and North is in the top 75 percent of the state.

“There are charter schools who are poorer-performing schools in the 30th percentile who have green saying that they perform OK,” she said. “It almost seems like we’re being punished for having a large, diverse group of students from high socio- economic families to low socio-economic families, because test scores are directly tied to socio-economics.

“I don’t think this again captures the right type of reform, teaching, things that need to be put in place to help these students catch up from the bottom,” she said. “I’m really frustrated with this data.”

Only 3 percent of schools earned green scorecards, and most of the highest-performing schools missed the mark. Most schools earned yellow,  orange or lime designations.

Among a number of criteria, the test takes into account the performance of subgroups, like racial identification, and adds in a new category — the lowest performing 30 percent of students.

“This is expected to have schools focusing on every student’s academic growth,” Flanagan stated in the press release. “We believe that every school can reach these goals.”

Students self-identify their ethnic groups, and students with an individualized education program fall into the special education category. The economically disadvantaged subgroup includes those who receive free and reduced lunch.

The system takes into account participation, graduation rates, school improvement plans and more.

North and South were hurt by participation on the tests in subgroups. Because it takes a minimum 30 students to make up a subgroup and schools need 95 percent participation, a couple of students not coming to school on test day can force a high-performing school to the red category.

Besides Pierce Middle School, which was ranked orange, the district had yellow designations for all other schools. Yellow seemed to be a popular designation for schools across the state.

The state also released its top-to-bottom ranking and the list of priority, reward and focus schools.

Grosse Pointe had five schools named reward schools, which are the top-performing schools, on the list and no priority schools, which are the lowest-performing schools in the top-to-bottom ranking. The district had six focus schools, which is a designation referring to the achievement gap between the highest- and lowest-performing students in the school.

Despite the color codes, the data from testing and other measures shows that the Grosse Pointe Schools are faring well.

“Analyzing the 2012-13 (Michigan Educational Assessment Program) and (Michigan Merit Exam) scores as a whole, the Grosse Pointe Public School System (GPPSS) had a strong year,” the district stated in a release about the report cards. “Overall results are high and show we are headed in the right direction, but the new system for evaluation highlighted a couple areas of focus for the coming year.”

As for top-to-bottom ranking, most of the Grosse Pointe Schools were in the 80th and 90th percentiles of the ranking.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer April Lehmbeck at alehmbeck@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1043.