717 Michigan schools fall short of No Child Left Behind goals

LANSING — More than 700 Michigan schools failed to meet the academic goals of the federal No Child Left Behind law during the 2010-11 school year, according to school report card information released Monday morning by the Michigan Department of Education.

The number of schools that didn’t meet the goals is up 41 percent from the previous school year, when 509 schools were cited as falling short of the standards. This year’s group of 717 schools make up 21 percent of the schools in Michigan.

The dramatic increase is only a sign of what is to come as the federal goals get tougher to meet, and as state officials raise the bar for what it takes to pass standardized exams.

Students no longer will be able to demonstrate just a basic understanding of material to pass the exam, which has been the case for years in Michigan.

“A couple of decades ago, achieving a very basic level of proficiency was sufficient to earn a living wage,” State Superintendent Mike Flanagan said in a news release Monday. “Today, students need to graduate from high school career- and college-ready.”

Among the highlights:

  • About 300 schools in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties did not meet the goals;
  • Detroit Public Schools had nearly 100 schools on the list;
  • Nearly 50 schools improved enough to come off the list of schools identified for improvement;
  • Also released Monday are letter grades schools receive through the state’s accreditation system, which is based largely on test scores. More than half – 51.4 percent – of the schools earned an A, 25.8 percent got a B, 6.6 percent got a C and 3.8 percent received a D. Nearly 13 percent did not receive a grade; and
  • Despite having hundreds of schools not meeting the federal goals, not one school lost accreditation, one of the reasons the MDE has been working for two years to strengthen the accreditation system – an effort that has been stalled in the Legislature.

Schools were identified under the No Child law because their student scores on the Michigan Educational Achievement Program exam and the Michigan Merit Exam weren’t high enough. Schools also could make the list because of low graduation and attendance rates, and if they had fewer than 95 percent of their students taking the exams.

The schools now face a range of penalties that grow in severity the longer they fail to meet the goals, and based on whether they receive federal funding for having a large population of poor students. The penalties start with having to offer parents the choice of sending their children to better schools and offering free tutoring and could get as tough as replacing the staff or closing down the school.

The reason for the increase this year? More students had to score at a higher level on the state exams for schools to meet the goals and more schools struggled to get to that target. For instance, in the 2010-11 school year, between 73 percent and 79 percent of students had to pass reading exams, compared to between 65 percent and 71 percent last year. In math, between 66 percent and 75 percent had to pass, compared to between 54 percent and 67 percent last year.

There are a ton of ways a school could be cited. Not only do all students have to meet the targets, but specific groups of students – minority, special education, poor – also must hit the targets. If, for instance, too few black students pass the MEAP, the entire school could fail to meet the goals.

Schools at all levels struggled, but the problem was most acute at the high school level, where 60 percent of schools met the standard, down from 82 percent last year.

The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, which has been around for 10 years, eventually will require that 100 percent of students in a school be proficient on state exams by 2014. Michigan has asked the U.S. Department of Education for a 10-year waiver for meeting the 100 percent proficiency goal, because the State Board of Education earlier this year approved substantially increasing the standard for passing state exams. That action is expected to result in far more schools being identified for improvement.

“While scores may initially decline, educators support this change because preparing students for long-term success is the right thing to do,” Flanagan said. “I have faith that our outstanding educators across this state will rise to this challenge – and continue to do so with honest effort and integrity.”

Find individual report cards at mischooldata.org or michigan.gov/mde.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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