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 Article of Interest - Failing Schools?

10 Michigan schools fall from 'finest' list
Quick demise taints validity of nation's recognition program
By Karen Thomas, and Anthony DeBarros / USA TODAY

School overlap

At least 19 U.S. schools awarded the national Blue Ribbon honor in the past five years also are included in this summer's federal list of failing schools. Michigan schools on both lists:

* Anna M. Joyce Elementary School, Detroit.

* L'Anse Cruise Middle School South, Harrison Township.

* Belmont Elementary School, Rockford.

* George F. Roberts Elementary School, Shelby Township.

* Glenn W. Levey Middle School, Southfield.

* * Cannonsburg Elementary School, Rockford.

* * Hillside Elementary School, Farmington Hills.

* * Latson Road Elementary School, Howell.

* * Springfield Plains Elementary School, Clarkston.

* ** Philip A. Hart Middle School, Rochester Hills.

* Denotes schools that were awarded the Blue Ribbon for the 2000-01 school year.
** Denotes Blue Ribbon schools for the 2001-02 school year.

10 Michigan schools fall from 'finest' list
Quick demise taints validity of nation's recognition program

by Karen Thomas, and Anthony DeBarros, August 9, 2002, USA TODAY and the Detroit News

At least 19 schools dubbed the nation's finest by the federal government over the past five years are also on this year's state lists of failing schools, USA TODAY has found.

The overlap underscores how elusive the definition of "school excellence" has become and questions the validity of the nation's most prestigious recognition program.

Ten of the schools are in Michigan.

Since 1982, the U.S. Department of Education has honored nearly 4,000 Blue Ribbon schools, based on a 50-page application and a site visit. Winning gives a school bragging rights and can drive up home prices.

In January, President Bush signed his education reform bill requiring states to compile a list of all schools that don't make adequate progress in academics for two years in a row. There are 8,652 such "failing" schools.

USA TODAY compared 1,154 Blue Ribbon schools with the failing schools in the 10 states with the largest number. Michigan has the highest number of failing schools. New York was fifth, but it could not be studied because it denied a request to release the names of 529 failing schools.

Of the states studied, USA TODAY found that half had at least one Blue Ribbon winner among schools that failed to meet state standards. At least seven were simultaneously the nation's "best" and "worst" in the 2000-01 school year; three won the exemplary title in May, just one month before the federal deadline to report failing schools.

"No way should those two intersect," said Tom Loveless, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution. He calls the message "convoluted. ... What's the public supposed to believe?" Finding so many overlaps in 10 states "lowballs the real problem" nationwide, he said. "It's just the tip of the iceberg."

Federal education officials say it's not fair to compare the two programs because they measure different kinds of school progress. Still, once the unexpected contradiction became apparent, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced last week new criteria for the Blue Ribbon program. Cuts will be made to its $1.1 million budget.


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