Grattan Academy officials question report, but say it shouldn’t be ignored

By Curtis Wildfong • Last Updated 12:18 pm on Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Grattan Academy Board of Directors responded Monday to a student achievement study conducted by The Center for Michigan and published in Bridge Magazine, which ranked the district last in the state. Officials questioned some of the data used in the report, but at the same time stated the district needed to do a better job for students. Pictured, from left, are Board President Beth Ryan, Secretary Kim Ricards, Treasurer Aarron Antclif and Superintendent Tom Kreiner. — Daily News/Curtis Wildfong

GRATTAN TOWNSHIP — Despite questioning some of the theory behind it, it’s hard for Grattan Academy to ignore the recent Academic State Champs report that named it the worst school in the state.

In spite of the questions, and in light of the data, there was one common theme among the Grattan Academy Board of Directors at Monday night’s school board meeting  … “we must do better.”

“This is not being ignored by any means,” said Superintendent Tom Kreiner. “This is an opportunity for us to light a fire under ourselves to really make a big push in academic achievement of students.

“High or low, we’re always looking to improve,” he said.

In response to the report, the Board of Directors asked Kreiner and his wife, High School Principal Libby Kreiner, to present at its next meeting the district’s school improvement plan and the adjustments that will be made as a result of the ranking.

“Instead of sticking our head in the sand, we’re doing something,” said Treasurer Aarron Antclif.

Just two parents, Brian and Cindee Dohm, were in attendance at Monday’s meeting, the first meeting since the release of the report. While expressing concern over the report, the Dohms agreed there was more to it than meets the eye. At the same time, both said they wished to know what the school would do to turn the tide at the district, which ranked near dead last in the previous year’s Academic State Champs study as well.

“How can we get students to test better?” Cindee Dohm asked.

The simple answer, said Tom Kreiner, is to continue moving the district forward in its efforts of increasing student achievement through instruction, which he said it is surely doing.

Grattan’s student achievement in math and reading has jumped by 10 percent over the last two testing periods and the school is now making Adequate Yearly Progress, an accountability system designed by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, something it hadn’t done just three years ago.

“To me, whether you’re poor or rich, I don’t care, if our test scores are going up, that’s straight and simple. It doesn’t matter how much money you’re bringing into the house,” said Board Vice President Ruthie Blackgrove.

But while achievement is on the upward trend, Libby Kreiner said there is still more work to do and the recent study shouldn’t be completely tossed aside.

“We can use it as an opportunity for growth, not say ‘oh poor us we’re the bottom of the pack, they’re being mean to us, they’re picking on us,’ it’s what are we going to do?” she said. “We don’t want to be here again, so what are we going to do so those numbers go up.”


Still questions about the data

The report bases its rankings on the percentage of students at a district who receive free and reduced lunches. It then formulates an expected level of testing the district should reach based on those percentages.

First, Tom Kreiner said, is the data used in the study may not have been up to date, thus skewing the ranking.

Grattan began a free and reduced lunch program at the elementary school in 2012. The program expanded to the high school just this school year and Kreiner believes because of that incorrect lunch program data was used. He said the district has 69.9 percent of its students on free or reduced lunch while the report suggested that number was at just 46.7 percent of the student body.

Ron French, who authored the report, maintained Grattan’s ranking was based on data from a Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI) report, which can be found at online.

The formula for the ranking is based on the assumption students in low income households tend to test lower than students with more financial resources at home.

While research suggests this tends to be true on a wide scale, Tom Kreiner said it isn’t necessarily true for Grattan. From seventh to 11th grade, he said 62.5 percent of students at the academy were on free or reduced lunch.

“Those students who were in low income, outperformed the other group by 50 percent,” he said.


Student improvement plan

The board acknowledged the report and said it was important to continue to focus on improving student achievement in the district and that there is plenty of room for improvement.

The superintendent and principal will be presenting the board and those in attendance at the next meeting the school’s student improvement plan and any adjustments it will make in light of the report.

The next meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. March 10 in the cafeteria at the high school, located at 9481 Jordan Road in Eureka Township.

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