It seems every organization out there dedicated to K-12 education has its own formula to track student success. There are report cards, color schemes, annual progress reports, at-risk declarations and top-to-bottom lists.
It’s up to school officials to take in each of these state or independent group studies and try to piece together the puzzle that most accurately depicts student achievement.
Ask any school official which formula works best and they will probably answer none of them … or maybe all of them.
SchoolDigger.com, a website founded in 2006, which studies school data such as test scores, enrollment and crime data, recently released its latest school ranking study, listing all 608 public school districts in Michigan from top to bottom.
Locally, Grattan Academy, a charter school based in Greenville and Belding, came out on top, ranking 260th (54th percentile) of all the districts based on the most recent test scores for elementary through high school levels.
The lowest ranked local school was the recently closed Threshold Academy, which came in at 513th.
Other local schools all fell somewhere in between. Lakeview Community Schools was not included in the ranking, likely because some of the statewide testing data was not available for that district.
SchoolDigger.com takes the most recent test scores (the 2014 Michigan Merit Exam for high school and MEAP for elementary and middle school) in math and English and averages scores in each subject. The sum of the two average scores calculates that school’s average score.
The report then takes that average score and determines the statewide percentile it falls into when compared to schools at the same grade level.
A district’s score is determined based on the average percentile of each building within the district, giving the district a score, which is essentially the percentile of Michigan districts the district falls within. Those scores determine where the district ranks overall in the state.
While not a perfect formula (officials say there really isn’t one), the data can be useful for school officials in seeing where they rank against similar districts.
“Those assessments really matter,” said Michelle Blaszczynski, chief academic advisor for Greenville Public Schools, which ranked 327th on the list. “It’s a good piece of information in context of other pieces as well.”
In the case of student achievement reports, they can provide some insight into educational success within a district.
Grattan Academy, for instance, saw its high school jump a whopping 230 spots in the state ranking of high schools on SchoolDigger.com.
“As a charter school leader, I consider this very exciting,” said Tom Kreiner, superintendent of Grattan Academy. “Considering the academic/political climate in Michigan, without this type of improvement, a charter school could be considered for closing.
“We have worked very hard over the last three years to improve academic achievement and it is now beginning to pay off,” he added. “We have more changes in store for the year to come which will lead to even greater improvement. We consider it an exciting time to be involved in the educational process.”
For each district, the information provided by SchoolDigger.com is only a snapshot of one year’s achievement and no matter where it fell, it is the goal to continue to improve.
“We want to take every student where they are and take them forward,” Blaszczynski said. “We’re interested in, wherever we are, moving forward.”
For some districts, the past several years have been working at just that, improving, including Belding Area Schools, which ranked 390th on the list.
“Belding staff, students and parents have been focusing on raising the achievement for all students, in particularly closing the achievement gap for our students with disabilities,” said Belding Superintendent Sara Shriver. “At the onset of the 2013-2014 school year, we began implementing six key evidenced-based strategies across the district. We know that given time to implement changes in our instructional program over a period of two to three years, we will see our rankings continue to go upward on sites such as SchoolDigger.com.”
For a more indepth look at districts and each school building within, visit www.schooldigger.com online.
How local schools did with the SchoolDigger.com study
Grattan Academy — ranked 260 (out of 608 schools)
Greenville Public Schools — ranked 327
Central Montcalm Public School —ranked 367
Tri County Area Schools — ranked 369
Carson City-Crystal Area Schools — ranked 383
Belding Area Schools — ranked 390
Vestaburg Community Schools — ranked 455
Montabella Community Schools — ranked 491
Threshold Academy (now closed) — ranked 513
*Lakeview Community Schools was not included in the rankings, likely due to incomplete testing data with the state.