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LOCS score yellow under new, colorful grading system

September 04, 2013 - By Meg Peters

Review Staff Writer

In a new grading system created by the Michigan Department of Education, Lake Orion Community Schools received a yellow report card.

Instead of using a numerical or letter-grade rating system, the new Michigan School Accountability Scorecards released just this year come in five colors: green, lime, yellow, orange and red. 

The school accountability reports along with a Top to Bottom ranking system were announced August 20 as a result of receiving more flexibility to the federal No Child Left Behind Act from the U.S. Department of Education.

Before, students within school districts had to be 100 percent proficient in achievement goals for schools to be termed proficient by the next school year.

With the new accountability rating system, Michigan has set individual goals for each school and district with the expectation of incremental improvement to reach 85 percent proficiency—not 100 percent— by the 2021-22 school year. 

To find the individual goal for each school, the state assesses the proficiency of each school according to standardized tests from the past three years and calculates what the school needs to do to get to proficiency by 2022.

"Proficient means earning a one or two on a MEAP test," said Heidi Kast, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment for Lake Orion Schools. "With No Child Left Behind we had to have 100 percent of kids proficient, which obviously is not realistic when you have for instance special needs students, so what they did was ask for a waiver and this is how this new scorecard came about."

Colors are granted for points received for each academic goal. If a goal is met, two points are given. If there is improvement, the school gets one point, and zilch for no goals met.

For a green scorecard schools must achieve 85 percent or greater of possible points. For lime status between 70 and less than 85 percent of points must be received and for yellow attain 60 but less than 70 percent of points. For an orange attain 50 but less than 60 percent of points are required, and for a red less than 50 percent of points are earned.

All of Lake Orion Schools received an overall yellow rating apart from the high school, which received a red, with 39 out of 64 possible points or 60.9 percent due to the participation rate taking the tests.

Most LO schools ranked in the 80 percentiles, the highest ranker being Stadium Drive Elementary, which received 36 of 40 possible points, or 90 percent.

Overall the LO School District received 78 of 112 points.

Both Oxford and Brandon schools acquired a red status, and Clarkston got orange.

The largest component of scores is based off of student MEAP and MME scores, which are broken down into two parts. The first part assesses proficiency and the second looks at participation rate, where at least 95 percent of students participate in each sub category.

Sub categories are divided into ethnic race, English Language Learners, students with disabilities, and the bottom 30 percent.

Teacher evaluations and school improvement reports, high school graduation rates and middle and elementary school attendance rates also influence overall scores.

Under the new rating system schools are held accountable for the academic growth of their lowest achieving students, those in the bottom 30 percent.

Although the system makes the grading system more visual, it can still be confusing to some.

"The system is so complex that it's hard for anybody in education to get a grasp on it, let alone outside education," Kast said. "Parents and community members should be able to easily understand the system, and that is not the case at all."

Another aspect of Michigan's school accountability system is the Top to Bottom ranking spectrum.  It ranks schools as Reward schools, Focus or Priority schools based on student performance in mathematics, reading, writing, science and social studies and high school graduation rates. The achievement gaps between the highest and lowest scoring students are also assessed, as well as improvement.

Priority schools indicate schools that place in the bottom 5 percent of the Top to Bottom ranking. Focus schools consist of the ten percent of schools with the largest achievement gap between its top 30 percent and bottom 30 percent of students.

Reward schools, which LO were designated as, are schools Beating the Odds and overcoming traditional barriers to student achievement and outperforming schools with similar demographics.  Lake Orion was rated as a Reward School, along side of Troy and Rochester, with the most individual schools rewarded with reward status.  

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