Michigan has wrestled
for too many years over how to rate its schools. Thursday, the
state Board of Education finally should launch an accreditation
system that gives a letter grade, like a report card, to every
This first step to
helping ailing schools is a far better system than simply
ranking schools by their MEAP scores. Those scores still will
count, as about a third of the final grade, but another third is
based on year-to-year improvement. A final third covers
structural basics that make a school good, from parent
involvement to academic planning.
and support can show a lot more about a school's quality than a
one-shot annual test. Where they exist, good scores usually
follow. But some schools with mediocre or worse test scores may
get decent final grades because they continuously show
improvement. At the other end, some schools with excellent test
scores may have big gaps in planning.
The results will draw
complaints, especially from communities that believe their
schools rate an A but don't get one. The state board needs to
put together a strong information campaign, and lean on the
schools to explain the plan thoroughly to parents and the
community, long before the first school report cards arrive.
Next fall is the goal.
This system will give
all schools an honest evaluation, and it's particularly
important to have the courage to identify the schools that let
Failed schools need
either massive intervention to get students learning, or they
need to be closed. The state board plans to intervene, using
money from the federal No Child Left Behind program -- assuming
it comes. Other schools may have the occasional bruised ego, but
this is really all about boosting opportunity for children who
otherwise may have none.