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Last Updated: 02/23/2018

 Article of Interest - Schools

State Board finalizes plan to grade schools
by Dee-Ann Durbin, M-Live and the Associated Press, December 12, 2002
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LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Schools will get letter grades based on test scores, student progress and other factors under an accreditation plan finalized Thursday by the State Board of Education.

State officials said grades for elementary and middle schools will be released sometime early next year. Grades for high schools will come later. Schools will be given grades of A, B, C, D, D-Alert or Unaccredited.

Michigan's chief academic officer said Thursday he thinks around 738 Michigan elementary and middle schools are failing to make enough annual progress under federal law, which is entwined with Michigan's accreditation plan.

Despite that threat, some districts are embracing the plan. Larry Thomas, a spokesman for the Oakland Intermediate School District, told board members that the system will help schools make sure all students are progressing.

"This is the most comprehensive accreditation system the state has ever had," he said.

But Amy McGlynn, a member of the Grand Rapids school board, said the system is "designed to slam us."

"It's not designed to help us figure out what to do about these inequities. It's just designed to shame us," she said.

State board members began working on the plan in June 2001, when newly hired state Superintendent Tom Watkins scrapped the board's previous accreditation system because he said it relied too heavily on Michigan Educational Assessment Program test scores.

Under the system finalized Thursday, scores on the MEAP reading and math tests will count for two-thirds of a school's grade. Schools will not only be measured by students' scores but also on whether all students -- including minorities, low-income and special education students -- are making progress.

Factors such as curriculum, professional development opportunities for teachers, arts programs and family participation will make up the other third of a school's grade.

The board needed to pass a system to measure student progress by Jan. 30 to meet a federal deadline. The No Child Left Behind Act, signed by President Bush earlier this year, requires states to measure annual progress for students in all racial and income groups.

Michigan's plan gives schools 12 years to reach a goal of 100 percent proficiency in reading and math.

Under the federal law, schools that fail to show progress within four years must restructure and pay transportation costs for students who want to attend other schools. If nothing improves within six years, the schools could face closure, state takeover or faculty replacement.

The restructuring provisions could kick in by the 2003-04 school year, based on what the state already knows about schools' performance, Chief Academic Officer Jeremy Hughes said Thursday.

Board members on Thursday debated whether to include an annual growth measurement in its accreditation system. The growth measure will show whether individual students are improving each year based on annual testing in grades 3 through 8.

Hughes recommended against including the growth measure in the system right now, since the state's data is incomplete. Because Michigan doesn't yet test students in the third grade, it won't have two consecutive years of test scores from grades 3 through 8 until the 2005-06 school year, he said.

But Watkins and other board members said the growth measure must be included in some form that will improve as the state's data gets more reliable. Most data is in place, they argued, except for students who move frequently.

"Each day that we delay the growth factor ... is a day that educators aren't going to pay attention to it," said outgoing Republican board member Michael Warren, who lost re-election to the board in November.

Board members voted on the issue several times. On the final vote, only Democratic board member Marianne McGuire of Detroit supported delaying the growth measure.

"We do districts a disservice if we adopt this now and then change it later," she said.

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