Last month the Dearborn Public School District sent out a press release as well as letters to parents and students informing them about the state's findings after evaluating their schools based on a new rating system implemented by the Michigan Department of Education.
The state, using a variety of tools including the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) scores and the Michigan Merit Exam (MME) scores, rated most of the schools within the state into three categories; 'Reward Schools,' which is the higher performing of the schools on the ratings scale, 'Focus Schools,' where students have the largest achievement gaps, and 'Priority Schools,’ which are described as the lowest performing schools overall. Some schools did not receive ratings at all because they didn't fit in the three categories.
|The Michigan Merit Exam Reading and Math score average shows that Dearborn High School students place significantly higher than Fordson and Edsel Ford students. While Edsel Ford students decreased in math this year, Fordson saw a small increase. Overall the district has fallen below the State average since 2010.|
The good news for the Dearborn School District is that no schools were given the lowest distinction, a 'Priority School.' However six of the schools in the district did rank in the 'Focus' category. Those schools were DuVall, Haigh, and Lowery Elementary Schools, Bryant Middle School, and both Fordson and Edsel Ford High Schools. The six schools in the district join a total of 358 schools in the entire state that were identified under this category.
David Mustonen, the Communications Director of Dearborn Public Schools says that part of the problem with these six schools is that there is a big gap between students who are accelerating and students who are performing poorly. All six schools have the largest gap of scores between the highest 30% and the lowest 30%, but Mustonen says even those schools have an exceptionally large number of students who are accelerating.
"Fordson is doing an outstanding job, because they've got a bunch of kids performing really well, and some kids are struggling and it's the gap between the two that's putting them in the lower scores," Mustonen stated.
One of the policies implemented by the state is if a school was rated in the 'Focus' or 'Priority' categories and the school receives Title 1 Funds, a grant through the federal government, then students and parents have the option of moving the student out of that school and into a school that received a higher rating or no rating at all.
Dearborn High was one of the schools that did not place in any categories, which Mustonen says is a good thing. This year, a total of 62 students from both Edsel and Fordson were able to transfer to Dearborn High upon requests, out of 122 students that sought interest. Mustonen says that students who were more at risk of not performing well in their current schools were the one's who were qualified for the transfers.
While the news might've been mixed for the six schools that placed in the 'Focus' categories, the district did also have schools that placed in the 'Reward' categories, which is considered an honorable ranking. A total of five schools in the district placed in this category; Henry Ford Early College, Lowery and Woodworth Middle Schools, and Maples and Whitmore-Bolles Elementary schools.
Mustonen also adds that even though the state rated the district's schools in these categories, parents should take other factors into consideration when looking at the bigger picture. For example, Bryant Middle School was placed in the 'Focus' category despite the fact that they placed higher than the other middle schools in the District on the MEAP tests.
"Bryant Middle School was identified as a focus school. Overall, they perform best on the MEAP scores than other middle schools in the district. But because there are other factors, we had to offer Bryant students other opportunities to go to another middle school," Mustonen added.
Edsel Ford might've been labeled as a 'Focus' school by the state, but its student averages on the MME tests placed significantly higher than Fordson High School. In 2012, Dearborn High students averaged a score of 57 on the MME Reading tests, while Edsel Ford averaged a 49 and Fordson averaged a 39. The district as a whole averaged a 48, below the state average of 56. But there is some good news however; all three high schools saw a small bump in their averages compared to 2011.
The Math scores for the MME tell a slightly different story. Dearborn High placed the highest in math with an average score of 30 in 2012, while Fordson edged out Edsel Ford, receiving an average of 19 compared to Edsel's average score of 18. The average in the district as a whole was 22, below the state average of 29. Dearborn High and Fordson were consistent compared to previous years, but Edsel Ford notably took a small hit compared to previous years in math.
Principal Mosallam of Fordson High School is adamant that the trend will continue upwards for his school, stating that an improvement plan which started being implemented last year has so far been working.
"Our school improvement plan is to focus on enhancing reading, writing and math skills across all grade levels. We are implementing reading and writing interventions, which will be on the classroom agenda no matter what the subject is. The idea is to focus on their needs no matter what the groups are and putting some interventions in place. Last year every teacher had on average of 40 hours of professional development. We are focusing a great deal on 9th and 10th graders, that way by the time they are in 11th and 12th grade they will be prepared to go out into the real world," Principal Mosallam stated.
Concerns of whether the students who were performing at a lower level were bi-lingual and needed further assistance were addressed by both Mustonen and Principal Mosallam. In separate interviews, they both stated that there are no specific groups of students who are performing at a lower level other than the Special-Ed students.
The school district is hoping that an increase of after-school programs and providing a greater emphasis on math and literacy, will be the major priority for the district for the district this year. An excerpt from a letter sent out to parents of Edsel Ford from the Office of the Superintendent in August stated the following:
"Our focus on literacy and other essential academic skills will continue and expand next year. You can assist efforts by encouraging your child to obtain the literacy and math help offered by Edsel Ford staff during the regular school day as well as after school and by becoming an active participant in the Edsel Ford community through your participation in the PTA."
Brian Whiston, the Dearborn Public Schools Superintendent also adds that Dearborn parents who want their children to accelerate in schools need to take that extra step as well.
"No excuses, we have work to do on our end but we also encourage parents to take an active role in their children's education by providing them with the support and materials they need, asking them about their assignments and homework, and above all, stay connected with their children's teachers and school," Whiston stated in a press release.