Tuesday, September 18, 2012

It's not unusual but I'm confused

While I know it is not unusual, I'm confused. This time it is the state of Michigan, in particular, the Michigan Department of Education that is confusing me.

In an era where information about schools has become increasingly important the Michigan Department of Education continues to create confusing story lines.

Let's look at some of the highest rated schools in Michigan.

Angell School in the Ann Arbor Public Schools is rated, according to Michigan's 2011-2012 Top-to-Bottom rankings, as the highest rated school in Michigan.

Or take Bemis Elementary in the Troy School District. It was the second ranked school on Michigan's 2011-2012 Top-to-Bottom rankings.

Look at Deerfield Elementary, the highest rated school in my district. Deerfield was the 10th ranked school on Michigan's 2011-2012 Top-to-Bottom rankings.

All three of these schools received an "A" on their state report card.

These schools are among the very best in Michigan.

Angell, Bemis, and Deerfield are also classified as Focus Schools because they are among the 358 schools in the state of Michigan with the largest achievement gaps. They have large gaps not because a majority of there students are not proficient. These schools have gaps primarily because they have proficient students and very proficient students. While some students do not meet the proficient threshold on the state assessment, the gap in these schools is, by and large, between those who are proficient on the state assessment and those who are very proficient on the state assessment.

The state of Michigan says that that it should spend its state resources to help these schools - schools that are rated among the very best in the whole state of Michigan. The state will send a District Improvement Facilitator to help use analyze data, facilitate professional dialogue, and customize interventions to help close the gap.

Why?  Because closing the gap is much more important than providing assistance to schools that are low achieving without any gaps.

Look at this graph:

The state says that the schools represented in orange and red on the graph above deserve state assistance. They represent 15% of the schools in the state of Michigan - the Priority and the Focus Schools. The schools represented by black, blue, and green dots do not need any extra state help.

Look particularly close at the schools circled in purple. One school - a blue dot - does not receive or need any assistance according to the state. They have very low achievement as seen as the Top-to-Bottom Percentile rank axis. They also have no achievement gap - as noted by their placement on the Achievement Gap axis. They are a low performing school where the majority of their students perform at the same - low - level. This school is neither a Priority or a Focus School. This school, according to the state, does not need any targeted assistance from the state.

The red dots circled in purple are Focus Schools. These schools have high achievement - among the highest in the state. They in fact rank higher than some of the Reward High Achieving Schools. What they unfortunately also have is an achievement gap. That gap could, and probably is, a gap between students who are proficient and students who are very proficient. Yet the state has committed resources to help this school close that gap.

The school represented by the blue dot - low achieving and no gap - does not receive any state assistance.

As I said at the beginning, I'm confused.

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