Report Cards To Be Used For Guidance
by Dave Groves, The Daily Oakland Press, August 5, 2003
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State School Superintendent Tom Watkins told a gathering of
Oakland County educators, student parents, government leaders
and interested residents on Monday that school report cards
expected to be released this fall are not meant to characterize
underperforming schools as failing.
"This isn't about labeling schools," he said. "It's about
identifying what's good in those schools and making it better,
identifying what's bad and making it good, and identifying
what's ugly and eliminating it."
Michigan's school districts have been waiting since May to learn
whether individual school buildings will receive state
accreditation based on efforts to advance student achievement
and provide quality educational programs and learning
Based on those evaluations, struggling schools will also learn
whether they'll be subject to sanctions of the federal No Child
Left Behind Act. The legislation calls for underperforming
schools to improve student achievement incrementally each school
year or begin to implement escalating levels of school reform.
Jeremy Hughes, chief academic officer for the Michigan
Department of Education, said tieups in receiving data from the
2003 Michigan Education Assessment Program tests have delayed
the department's release of the highly anticipated school
accreditation reports, but hopes are now to release them by the
time the 2003-04 school year opens or shortly after.
Some at Monday night's meeting, conducted at the Oakland Schools
headquarters facility in Waterford, expressed concerns that
their efforts to show progress in advancing student achievement
are hampered when test result data is not made available to
Watkins responded that after this year, he hopes to have kinks
in the data analysis system ironed out and the results
distributed in a more timely manner.
Presently, 760 public schools are on the state's list of schools
identified as needing improvement. That number could grow based
on the test results districts are still waiting to receive.
Watkins said educators, parents, business and political leaders
and other community members will need to focus on what needs to
be done for public education in light of the data, rather than
which schools are or are not on the list of those identified as
"It's not important how many schools we start out with on the
list, it's what we do collectively to get them off the list that
counts," he said.
Despite fiscal challenges the state faces, $25 million in
federal reading program grant money, $10 million in after-school
program funding and state education technology funding will be
made available to districts most in need of school improvement.
Watkins said the state will also look to assist districts in
determining the best use of the $12.5 billion in state education
"It's true that the resources we have are limited, but we've got
to continue asking ourselves what we're doing with what we've
got," he said.
Oakland Schools Interim Superintendent Dan Austin said the
intermediate district will assign school improvement teams to
each Oakland County school identified as a top priority building
for school improvement. Each of those teams will spend at least
three days a week on site "for as long as it takes" to implement
reform measures, Austin said.
As Watkins did, Austin told Monday's gathering that every effort
will be made to enlist more than just educators in local school
"The issue of parental involvement is huge," he said. "It's the
number one issue in Oakland County and we plan to show parents
more ways they can get involved in their children's education."
When this year's standardized test data is released, schools
will receive a letter grade of A, B, C, D/Alert or Unaccredited.
School districts will have two weeks to review and appeal letter
grades before they are released to the public, at which time
they will be made available through local media and the
Department of Education's Web site at
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