UPDATED: Brighton Area Schools Fail to Meet AYP; State Identifies New School Designations
Because Adequate Yearly Progress now has more stringent requirements for a school district to pass, Brighton failed to meet the mark, even though a majority of its schools did.
Today the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) released its school report cards, which includes the list of schools meeting state standards through Adequate Yearly Progress. And among the most successful are Spencer Elementary and Hilton Elementary in Brighton.
Both are listed as "reward schools" - a new designation from the state - meaning they are in the top five percent of schools in Michigan and have made significant gains in academic progress during recent years.
“We applaud the hard work and achievement of the educators and students in our Reward Schools because they are zeroed in on improving learning,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan in a press release. “We need to instill that goal in so many more schools, in order to help all kids be career and college-ready and successful in life.”
The changes this year may not matter in the long run. Because of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver granted from the federal government, the state in 2012-2013 will no longer be measuring districts based on AYP. Starting next year, school districts will receive accountability scorecards that use five different colors to recognize varying levels of achievement and accountability for each school and district.
Brighton among districts failing AYP
While most schools in the district passed AYP, the Brighton Area School District as a whole did not, failing to meet standards in math and reading, according to the MDE.
It is among a surprising list of southeast Michigan school districts that have gone from a passing AYP designation a year ago to failing today. In total, 262 districts (48 percent) statewide did not make AYP, compared to 37 (6.7 percent) last year. At the school building level, 82 percent of schools made AYP across the state, compared to 79 percent last year.
The increase of schools not making AYP is due in part to the more rigorous career and college-ready cut scores now used on the MEAP (Michigan Educational Assessment Program) and MME (Michigan Merit Exam) tests. In addition, the state now factors graduation rates for all students into the calculations and also now includes the achievement of certain student populations who previously may have not been counted.
In the past, districts only needed to meet AYP targets at one of three levels - elementary, middle and high school. Now, they are required to meet them at all three.
Jan Ellis, a spokeswoman for the MDE, said this year's designations put a focus on the achievement gaps between students and really tries to highlight the need for all students to achieve success.
"The goal is to have all students proficient, not just some," she said, adding that in the past there was the ability to mask poor student performance because the focus was on those students who were doing really well.
At Brighton High, one or more subgroups failed to meet participation requirements for standardized tests. A subgroup is any group that has at least 30 students in a grade level. Brighton's subgroups include students who are economically disadvantaged or those with disabilities.
The school made a clerical error in failing to test at least 95 percent of its subgroups, according to Laura Surey, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction.
"The reason we did not make AYP was not because of our teaching or our achievement, but because of a counting error," Surrey said. It was a form of miscommunitcation between us and the state, and those kids had actually moved to the Bridge Alternative High School before the test. We thought we had tested 100 percent of the kids we were responsible for. Somebody really wasn't watching those names of kids, it's really important we know who they are. So Brighton High School made it in terms of achievement."
Surrey said this is a mistake that won't be made again.
Bridge Alternative High School did not receive a grade as no students met participation requirements in addition to not meeting math and reading benchmarks or graduation rate requirements.
Surrey said that Brighton Area Schools as a district has an extremely high graduation rate of 95 percent. But in the subgroups, 80 percent of students must graduate, and that is where the district fell short.
"This is what caused the entire district to not make AYP," she said.
Superintendent Greg Gray said he was very proud of Brighton Area Schools and their achievements.
"If you look at the rest of our scores, all of our elementary schools are in the top 10 percent, Scranton and Maltby are in the top 20 percent, and we have two schools in the top 5 percent," Gray said. "As far as our test scores and achievements, we have a whole lot to be proud of."
Gray said that there are only 13 schools in the state of Michigan that score higher than Brighton High School.
Another measure of performance on the report cards is the Education Yes! grade, which is based on student achievement, achievement growth and self-assessments from schools.
New school designations
While AYP was designed to measure student achievement as required by the federal NCLB, the waiver, received last month, frees Michigan from following some of the NCLB rules.
As a result of the waiver, the MDE has identified three new school designations: reward schools, priority schools and focus schools. Not every school fits into one of these categories.
Reward Schools: The top five percent of all Michigan schools in the annual top-to-bottom ranking and the top five percent making the greatest academic progress over the past four years.
Priority Schools: Previously called persistently lowest achieving schools, these are now identified as those in the bottom five percent of the annual top-to-bottom ranking and any high school with a graduation rate of less than 60 percent for three consecutive years. There were 146 priority schools identified this year. These schools will be required to come up with a plan to improve. None of them are in Brighton.
Focus Schools: The 10 percent of schools with the widest achievement gaps, meaning the academic disparity between the top 30 percent of students and the bottom 30 percent. That list includes 358 schools, many who in the past would be considered high-achieving. The schools are now charged with bridging the gap.
“We are committed to closing the achievement gaps in all of our schools for all of our students,” Flanagan said in the release. “With this measure of transparency, schools will be identified and held accountable for the achievement of all of their students.”