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UPDATED: Dexter Community Schools Fail to Meet AYP; State Identifies New School Designations

Because Adequate Yearly Progress now has more stringent requirements for a school district to pass, Dexter failed to meet the mark, even though all of its schools did.

Today the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) released its school report cards, which includes the list of schools meeting state standards through Adequate Yearly Progress. And among the most successful are  and  in Dexter.

Both are listed as "reward schools" - a new designation from the state - meaning they are in the top five percent of schools in Michigan and have made significant gains in academic progess during recent years.

“We applaud the hard work and achievement of the educators and students in our Reward Schools because they are zeroed in on improving learning,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan in a press release. “We need to instill that goal in so many more schools, in order to help all kids be career and college-ready and successful in life.”

The changes this year may not matter in the long run. Because of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) , the state in 2012-2013 will no longer be measuring districts based on AYP. Starting next year, school districts will receive accountability scorecards that use five different colors to recognize varying levels of achievement and accountability for each school and district.

Dexter among districts failing AYP

While all of the schools in the district passed AYP, the Dexter Community Schools District as a whole did not, failing to meet standards in math and reading, according to the MDE.

It is among a surprising list of southeast Michigan school districts that have gone from a passing AYP designation a year ago to failing today. In total, 262 districts (48 percent) statewide did not make AYP, compared to 37 (6.7 percent) last year. At the school building level, 82 percent of schools made AYP across the state, compared to 79 percent last year.

The increase of schools not making AYP is due in part to the  now used on the MEAP (Michigan Educational Assessment Program) and MME (Michigan Merit Exam) tests. In addition, the state now factors graduation rates for all students into the calculations and also now includes the achievement of certain student populations who previously may have not been counted.

In the past, districts only needed to meet AYP targets at one of three levels - elementary, middle and high school. Now, they are required to meet them at all three.

Superintendent Mary Marshall explained that all of the district's six schools met AYP in the academic areas of reading and math, however the district's graduation rate for the economically disadvantaged students prevented it from meeting the new AYP standard district-wide.

"Normally Dexter does not have enough students in the economically disadvantaged category to be calculated, but in the Class of 2011, there were more than 30 students in the educationally disadvantaged group, and there were five more students in that category that didn't graduate in four years in order to meet the graduation rate threshold," Marshall said. 

In Michigan, school districts can meet the AYP criteria for graduation rate by either graduating all of its students or showing improvement.

"Dexter was unable to show improvement in graduation rate for economically disadvantaged students because the group was too small to report in prior years, and we already know it is too small to report for the Class of 2012," Marshall said. "It is difficult to show progress when we are being assessed based on a single data point. Several students from the Class of 2011 have since completed their diploma, but they did not complete it in time to be included in the four-year graduation cohort."

Marshall said she cautions the use of statistical measurements that do not provide a complete picture of the school district's achievements.

"The continued academic success of our schools is noted in the top-to-bottom rankings also released today. Creekside outperfomed 92 percent of all schools in the state in regards to academic achievement. Bates Elementary students outperformed 91 percent, and Dexter High School and Mill Creek Middle School both performed better than 87 percent of the schools in the state," she said. 

Cornerstone Elementary ranked in the 85th percentile and Wylie ranked at the 75th percentile.

"To have all six of our schools ranked in the top quarter of the state indicates that we have many strengths in the educational program supported by the teachers and parents of this community, but academic achievement must be measured student by student," Marshall said. "The new data highlights some areas that we can focus on to assure we meet the needs of every child."

Another measure of peformance on the report cards is the Education Yes! grade, which is based on student achievement, achievement growth and self-assessments from schools. 

All of the district's six schools received a "B."

New school designations

While AYP was designed to measure student achievement as required by the federal NCLB, the waiver, received last month, frees Michigan from following some of the NCLB rules.

As a result of the waiver, the MDE has identified three new school designations: reward schools, priority schools and focus schools. Not every school fits into one of these categories.

Reward SchoolsThe top five percent of all Michigan schools in the annual top-to-bottom ranking and the top five percent making the greatest academic progress over the past four years.

Priority Schools: Previously called persistently lowest achieving schools, these are now identified as those in the bottom five percent of the annual top-to-bottom ranking and any high school with a graduation rate of less than 60 percent for three consecutive years. There were 146 priority schools identified this year. These schools will be required to come up with a plan to improve. None of the schools are in Dexter.

Focus SchoolsThe 10 percent of schools with the widest achievement gaps, meaning the academic disparity between the top 30 percent of students and the bottom 30 percent. That list includes 358 schools, including , many that in the past would be considered high-achieving. The schools are now charged with bridging the gap.

“We are committed to closing the achievement gaps in all of our schools for all of our students,” Flanagan said in the release. “With this measure of transparency, schools will be identified and held accountable for the achievement of all of their students.”

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