by Lori Higgins, Detroit Free Press, July 15, 2003
For more articles like this
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
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
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
Hamilton said the district will intervene with students who are
"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,
Contact Lori Higgins at 248-591-5625 or
back to the top ~
back to Breaking News
~ back to