2013-09-19 / Front Page

School falls to ‘focus’ status

Officials cite flawed ranking, make plans

MANISTIQUE – The Manistique Area Schools District recently received its Annual Education Report, and Emerald Elementary has been deemed a “focus” school by the state. In a MAS Board of Education Meeting Monday, the board and administration discussed the ranking and what it will mean for the school.

According to Superintendent Kathy McDonough, the state has a new accountability system which ranks schools in various areas using a color-coded system. The district as a whole ranked as a “yellow” district, along with 65 percent of Michigan schools, she said. This means the district attained at least 60 percent but less than 70 percent of possible points

Since Emerald has been deemed a focus school, McDonough said steps will be taken to improve its ranking.

“There will be dedicated math and reading intervention time, technology teaching tools to enhance science and social studies, and a continued weekly staff professional development that includes individual student analysis,” she said. “We will be zooming our lens in even tighter than we already have been.”

She noted that Emerald has been touted by the Michigan Department of Education, and that the ranking is slightly misleading.

“There’s a lot of positive going on at Emerald and this focus is just another piece of that whole puzzle that we need to do a little more work on,” she said.

According to Emerald Principal Erik Mason, the school “just barely” crossed the line, which flagged them as a focus school. He noted the ranking system is inherently flawed, and that officials are still looking into ways to “tweak” it and make it a more accurate portrayal of each school.

“There are three schools that were focus schools last year that are now reward schools,” Mason said. “That shows how volatile that system is.”

Mason said that while Emerald received high scores in all categories, it was the “top to bottom” ranking, the one measuring the gap between the highest and lowest performing students at any given school.

“That gap is what caused us to fall in that focus school – our gap grew,” he said. “The goal is to shrink that gap of our lower performing students to get closer to those higher up.”

In a subgroup of economically disadvantaged students, Mason said Emerald had the second highest in proficiency rating in the Delta-Schoolcraft Intermediate School District.

“That shows that our students are receiving great education and that they’re improving,” he said. “Now we just want them to improve even more.”

Data used for the rankings was based on curriculum taught during the 2011 school year, Mason noted, so it does not accurately depict what is now happening at the school. For example, communication between students and teachers has grown, he explained – pointing out a 95 percent participation rate at last fall’s parent-teacher conferences.

“We all know, the more the parents are involved, the better the student achievements are,” he said.

As for the Manistique Middle and High School, no label had been given by the state, and it is not deemed a focus school.

“Our school has been identified as ‘not being one of these labels’, so that’s pretty interesting,” Principal John Shiner said.

In other business the board also approved the adoption of a group of policies, including one that limits the interactions between board members and teachers.

“It lays out that all communication from staff to the board comes through the superintendent – it is my job then to distribute it to the board,” she said. “That just preserves the chain of command and access to the board when it comes to anything from the staff, both professional or support.”

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