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Article of Interest - Annual Yearly Progress

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Bridges4Kids LogoSchool 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 environments.

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 them.

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 needing improvement.

"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 funding.

"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 improvement efforts.

"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 www.michigan.gov/mde.
    

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