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NCLB Labels More than 200 Michigan Schools as Failing to Made Adequate Yearly Progress
It figures that the politico governor calls on business coalition to "help schools succeed." The Business Roundtable gets to define success and failure. The union response is just as troubling.

More than 200 Mich. schools get poor marks

Sanctions may include replacing staff and letting students move
Detroit Free Press

Lori Higgins, Kathleen Gray, and Kim North Shine

More than 200 Michigan elementary and middle schools -- nearly half of them in Detroit and overwhelmingly in poorer communities -- must improve or face potentially serious consequences.

For parents, it can mean an opportunity to send children to better schools. For the schools themselves -- including 96 in Detroit Public Schools -- it could mean that tutoring services must be offered, teachers could be replaced and curriculum could be changed.

For Gov. Jennifer Granholm, it means a far-reaching community and business coalition must embrace the schools to help them succeed.

"There will be a sense of urgency because we cannot afford to wait," Granholm said. "This will require an unprecedented effort."

The state revealed Monday the list of 216 schools -- out of 2,260 that were evaluated -- that failed to meet adequate yearly progress. Some districts have already appealed -- including Detroit, which says eight of its 96 schools should not be included because the state used incorrect data.

Most of the schools serve large percentages of low-income students, and most are in urban areas. But educators say everyone should care.

"We used to be a society where you could lift for a living, but now are a society where you have to think for a living," State Superintendent Tom Watkins said. "We ought to care about this list for our own selfish economic reasons, because how can we have a strong state and nation without an educated citizenry?"

"We're all in this together," said Alex Bailey, superintendent in the Oak Park School District, where Pepper Elementary was listed because its reading scores didn't meet the goals.

Bennie Buckley, an Oak Park woman whose son, Darius, is a second-grader at Pepper, says parents must shoulder responsibility.

"The teacher's job is to teach my child. The rest lies in my lap," Buckley said.
How the list came about

The identification of schools that don't make adequate yearly progress (AYP) is a byproduct of the No Child Left Behind Act, which brought sweeping changes to K-12 education in the United States and placed more focus on testing and accountability.

The act requires states to identify schools that don't meet AYP standards. States set their own definition.

In Michigan, the standard is 47-percent proficiency in math and 38 percent in reading for elementary students, and 31-percent proficiency in math and reading for middle school students.

Of the 216 schools, 95 failed to meet the standard for four consecutive years, 93 for three years and 28 for two years. Sanctions against schools rise each year they don't meet the target.

The target rises each year until the 2013-14 school year, when all schools must reach 100-percent proficiency.

"The story is not how many schools are on the list, but what we're going to do collectively to get them off," Watkins said.

Toward that end, Granholm laid out a plan to bring together state departments with the private sector, the faith community and nonprofits to focus on the highest priority schools.

As a prerequisite for licensing and state funding, day care centers and hospitals, for example, will contribute by offering parenting components to their services. Businesses, faith-based groups and nonprofits will adopt schools on the list. And the state's surgeon general will work toward lowering teen pregnancy rates.

Principals will attend a weekend conference next month and a weeklong academy this summer to develop improvement plans.

In announcing the list of 216 schools, Granholm also pointed to success stories. Crary Elementary School in Detroit had failed to make AYP in the 1999-2000 school year.

But some staff changes were made and parents in the community became more active, said Principal Denise Nicole Powell.

Detroit Superintendent Kenneth Burnley said the district has a plan in place to move more of its schools off the list. Working with administrators and the teachers' unions, "I have assurances we can make progress," he said.

The partnership Granholm announced could bring "faster and greater progress" to reform measures, said Stan Childress, Detroit district spokesman.

"These are tremendous resources that we did not have before," he said. "It's a comprehensive approach that really had been missing."

Detroit parents such as Theresa Yurko have tried to find their own solutions. Yurko's children continually failed classes at Atkinson Elementary, which is on the list. So she sent them to live with relatives who live near schools with better reputations.

"Their grades have improved tremendously," she said.

In Pontiac, eight schools didn't make adequate yearly progress for at least three years. It's a disappointment for Pontiac Superintendent Walter Burt.

"But we're putting corrective measures in place," he said. The district will bring in a consultant from Oakland University, review the district's curriculum and conduct some staff development, Burt said.

In Inkster, plans are under way to provide additional training, hire an expert to advise the district on improvement plans and launch an intensive summer school intervention program.

"We're close to about as bad as it gets," said W. Howard Harris, appointed by the state last August as the district's financial manager and superintendent. "It's not just money. . . . if you think about kids and schools that do well, there is total involvement by all the stakeholders."
List may grow in June

Although more than 90 percent of the schools in Michigan achieved the goals this time around, the number that don't is expected to rise in June, when another AYP list is released.

That's when the scores of subgroups, such as ethnic and racial minorities as well as special needs students, are evaluated separately. A school could fail to make AYP if those subgroups don't meet the standard. They could also fail if they don't test 95 percent of their students.

David Hecker, president of the Michigan Federation of Teachers, said he's not concerned about wholesale changes in staff at schools that don't meet the standards.

"The law talks about changing staff, not discharging teachers," Hecker said. "All the staff have their rights under the law and collective bargaining agreements. And if it gets to the point of shifting staff, we'll deal with it in a constructive way so teachers are treated fairly."

— Lori Higgins, Kathleen Gray, Kim North Shine
More than 200 Mich. schools get poor marks
Detroit Free Press
April 15, 2003


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