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Article of Interest - NCLBA

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Bridges4Kids Logo544 Schools Inadequate
by Lori Higgins, Detroit Free Press, July 15, 2003
For more articles like this visit http://www.bridges4kids.org

 
An additional 544 Michigan elementary and middle schools have been added to a list of those needing academic improvement after the state learned it erred in following federal rules.

In April, the Michigan Department of Education named 216 schools as failing to meet the academic goals prescribed by the No Child Left Behind Act, based on low reading or math scores on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program test.

Michigan left off the April list 544 schools that met the standard during the 2001-02 school year, but did not meet it the previous two school years. Of those 544, 155 are in Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties. Of those, 35 are in Detroit.

The U.S. Department of Education has said Michigan made a mistake in omitting those schools, and that the schools must improve for two straight years before being taken off the list.

A state spokesman says the education department thought it had interpreted the law correctly.

"Our interpretation of the law was different than the federal government. We believed we read it correctly. We had an opinion from a Washington law office that said we were correct," said T.J. Bucholz of the Michigan Department of Education.

It's not the first time the federal agency has challenged Michigan's interpretation of the complex No Child Left Behind law, which has brought sweeping changes, and more accountability, to U.S. public schools.

In a separate issue this year, Michigan school administrators were told they could exempt students from taking the MEAP who had been in the United States fewer than three years. But the U.S. Department of Education said all students must be tested, and threatened to withhold some money from Michigan if the state didn't comply.

Neither the state, nor the districts that have schools on the new list, expect them to be tagged long. An updated list of schools needing improvement is to be released in August -- and will include 2002-03 MEAP scores.

"We expect they will make" adequate yearly progress "in August and they'll be off that list," said Bill Hamilton, assistant superintendent of curriculum in the Walled Lake Consolidated Schools. Two Walled Lake schools -- Meadowbrook and Wixom elementary schools -- are among the 544.

During the 1999-2000 and 2000-01 school years -- before No Child Left Behind was mandated -- Michigan already had tough academic goals for schools, requiring 75 percent of all students to pass MEAP tests.

But the state board of education lowered those standards in December to better conform with the federal law. For instance, just 38 percent of students must score proficient in fourth-grade reading for a school to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) on the MEAP.

Most of the 544 schools will exceed that mark, Bucholz said.

"These schools are many things. One thing they are not is failing," Bucholz said.

Still, those schools have been told they must offer some supplemental services to their poorest students this summer. Or, they must use some of their federal funds to offer parents a choice to send their children to better schools, or to hire tutors, during the 2003-04 school year.

Some districts already were a step ahead.

"We anticipated the schools that were listed," said Marlene Lewis, director of elementary education for Dearborn Public Schools, which had five schools listed. "It's not like we're reading this for the first time.

That's why Dearborn -- and other districts like Plymouth-Canton Community Schools -- ran summer programs to help struggling students.

Hamilton said the district will intervene with students who are struggling.

"We're doing a lot of things regardless of whether they're mandated because they're the right thing to do."
 

TO LEARN MORE

 
For a list of the 544 schools, go to www.freep.com/pdf/2003/07/15/schools.pdf (Adobe PDF format, 140K).
 
Contact Lori Higgins at 248-591-5625 or higgins@freepress.com.  

   

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