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September 18, 2013

Pair of East Detroit elementary schools receives top marks

By Kevin Bunch
C & G Staff Writer

EASTPOINTE — The Forest Park and Crescentwood elementary schools have both achieved green ratings under the state’s accountability scorecard rankings — the highest honors available.

According to Crescentwood Principal Sue Miller, this is also the first year both schools were eligible to be ranked under the scorecard system. As both schools are kindergarten-through-second-grade buildings, the scores are mainly based off of former students who have gone on to third grade, and their subsequent Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) test scores.

Those scores are then used to assess educational progress for the students in the lower elementary school, she said. Other rankings on the scorecard under green are lime, yellow, orange and red, and are based on how well a school did on a variety of factors.

“The green status means we attained 85 percent or better with all the points possible,” Miller said. “So that means sub-groups like the economically disadvantaged, our African-American population, the bottom 30 percent of kids, our attendance rate. There’s an educator evaluation section — there are lots of different sections, and we achieved 85 percent or better in each of those areas.”

Miller said since her school only covers three grades, when the teaching and paraprofessional staff goes on professional development days, they are able to work on the specific, limited age groups the school handles.

Forest Park Principal Pam Fry said in addition to being able to focus on “emergent learners,” her school has also been able to use federal Title I grant money to help students who are struggling in specific areas.

“We can do small groups (for) extra instruction, extended days with before- or after-school tutoring, an extended year with programs in the summer, and we have a paraprofessional team,” Fry said. “And (we) can’t forget the excellent teachers.”

Beyond that, Fry said her school has been approved for building-wide Title I funding, so all students will be able to receive additional educational support.

East Detroit Superintendent Joanne Lelekatch said she was proud to have two green-ranked schools in her district, and the staff at both schools were excited upon hearing the news.

“I think the key point is focused instruction,” Lelekatch said. “We really keep the instruction focused, and our teachers are involved in training in classroom instruction that works. So the teachers really looked at the data and adjusted their teaching strategies to keep the kids focused, and I think that was the key.”

Neither school is resting on its laurels, however. Fry said while her school is working on “all areas of study,” she wanted to see kids improve their reading and writing skills to at least their own grade level across the board.

She said she also wanted to see greater improvement in the school’s math scores.

Miller said Crescentwood is looking to add math paraprofessionals this year to help students develop fundamental math skills. She added the school would be continuing to focus on all major subjects.

“We’re still working hard because we know, next year, another scorecard is coming out, so we want to maintain our status,” Miller said.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Kevin Bunch at kbunch@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.