To Be Graded
by Ray Kisonas, Monroe Evening News, November 25, 2003
For more articles like this
Tom Watkins of the Michigan Department of Education talks to a
room of educators Monday night at the Monroe County Intermediate
School District. A group of officials came to town to talk about
the upcoming grades for schools. State officials in county to
explain school performance guidelines.
Some report cards are expected to come out in January, but they
won't be grading students. The letter grades will be given out
to schools to determine how well the schools are doing in
Michigan Department of Education officials, including state
Supt. Tom Watkins, visited Monroe County Monday to detail the
criteria that will be used to grade school performance. Such
data include Michigan Educational Assessment Program scores and
the amount of involvement families dedicate to their children's
Mr. Watkins told a gathering of local educators at the Monroe
County Intermediate School District that the Michigan Department
of Education decided on using a letter system similar to how
students are graded because it is a system most recognized by
Accountability, generally supported by educators, also is
necessary to fulfill rules created by the federal No Child Left
Behind (NCLB) law.
"We needed something the average person can look at and
understand," Mr. Watkins said. "Our goal is to find a way to
make these laws work for the 1.7 million children who get up
every morning and go to school every day."
The panel of state education officials included Temperance
resident Dr. Herbert Moyer, vice president of the state board of
education, and Dr. Jeremy Hughes, chief academic officer of the
Michigan Department of Education.
They discussed the details of the school grading system to a
roomful of Monroe County superintendents, principals and other
Standards achieved through the state's Education Yes! system
also should fulfill the state's NCLB regulations by merging the
two plans, Mr. Watkins said.
"We have high rigorous standards in Michigan," Mr. Watkins said.
"We don't want to back away from that."
Part of the state accreditation system includes grading schools
and those results are planned for release to the public Jan 30.
Each building will receive four letter grades in the following
-- MEAP scores
-- Changes in MEAP scores
-- School performance indicators that include such categories as
curriculum alignment, teacher quality, arts education, family
involvement, student attendance and building facilities.
-- An overall grade.
The overall grade will be determined by combining 67 percent of
the MEAP results with 33 percent of the grade encompassing the
school performance indicators.
The system is complicated and one category - MEAP change -
appeared to raise the most eyebrows. In his attempt to explain
the MEAP change category, Dr. Hughes used an example of a school
that scored in the high 80s on a MEAP test in one year but
dropped slightly the next. Because of that decrease, the school
received an F in the MEAP change category.
That did not sit well with several of those in the crowd.
"I think it's a very bad piece of formula," said Richard Gunn,
Whiteford High School principal. "I think it's too confusing."
Mr. Watkins answered by saying that the system still is in the
tweaking phases. He seemed to agree with Mr. Gunn.
"We'll have to find ways to modify that," he said.
The grades were supposed to be released to the public by now but
about 1,200 schools in the state - many from the Monroe County
region - appealed their grades. Mr. Watkins said he does not
consider the public release date of Jan. 30 a delay.
"I'm not going to put them out until it's right," he said.
"We're human. There are going to be mistakes."
Perhaps the two most daunting goals of NCLB facing educators are
the 95 percent student participation rate in the MEAP test and
getting 100 percent of students to score proficient in those
tests. But Dr. Hughes said it is not impossible.
"A lot of people are bashing No Child Left Behind, saying
they'll never get 100 percent student proficiency," he said.
"But our goal has always been to get our kids above that middle
line. It is possible. It is conceivable."
The two-hour session, called "Listen and Learn," was intended to
give local educators a chance to discuss federal and state laws
with their brethren in Lansing. By coming to Monroe, the troupe
of state officials completed its 10th such community visit.
Their message in its most simplistic form was to remind
educators that laws are laws and they must be followed. But Mr.
Watkins also acknowledged that he needs local educators' input
to fine-tune those rules the best way possible.
"We don't know everything in Lansing," he said. "But we're
trying to do the best we can."
back to the top ~
back to Breaking News
~ back to