School officials wary of ‘grades’

Published 3:54 am Thursday, January 29, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Officials from Niles and Buchanan schools held a press conference on Wednesday afternoon to explain the meaning of the Michigan School Report Cards that will be released on Friday.
As part of Michigan's Education YES! program, the report cards are one of the components that are interlinked to present a picture of performance for each school.
The report cards will offer a measure that is easily comprehended by members of the general public.
The big concern is that the grades may not accurately inform the public of the school's achievements.
The report cards will grade the schools in the following categories: student achievement status, student achievement change, indicators of school performance, preliminary grade and adjusted grade.
The achievement status grade is calculated using a weighted index of the student's MEAP scores. With the lower scores receiving more weight than the best scores.
The achievement change is calculated by dividing the computed improvement rate of MEAP scores by the target improvement rate. This grade is based on the goal of 100 percent proficiency for the 2013-2014 school year set out in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
Casey and Craig then showed a video that indicated the concerns with the achievement change grade.
If a school is testing at high levels, but shows little or no improvement from the previous year, it will negatively impact their grade. On the other hand, a school with lower overall scores that shows a lot of improvement will receive a better grade.
The third grade is the indicators of school performance grade. This grade is based on a self-assessment performed by each school, in which they evaluate themselves on the investments that they are making to improve student achievement.
Craig anticipates the most of the area schools will do very well on this grade because most of the school systems have had improvement plans in place for a long time.
Casey said statisticians are also questioning the value of this grade because it is so subjective.
The preliminary grade for each school is determined by combining the schools' grades for achievement status, achievement change and indicators of school performance.
The adjusted grade is the result of the preliminary grade and the school's Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), another measure indicated on the report cards.
The AYP is a measure of achievement based on MEAP results, participation rates in MEAP testing and attendance or graduation rates.
In order for schools to meet the AYP objectives, a certain percentage of students must pass the MEAP test at a proficient level.
For this school year, 47 percent of elementary students must be proficient in mathematics and 38 percent in reading. At the middle school level, 31 percent of students must be proficient in both math and reading. At the high school level, 33 percent must be proficient in math and 42 percent in reading.
The required percentages will gradually increase until they reach the target of 100 percent proficiency in the 2013-2014 school year.
There were four types of subgroups set out in the No Child Left Behind Act that must individually reach proficient testing levels.
The factors determining these subgroups are ethnicity, English language learners, economically disadvantaged students, and special education. A school must have at least 30 students in one of the categories for it to qualify as a subgroup. "So, you must calculate the MEAP achievement, not just for your grade as a whole, but for each subgroup within that grade," Craig said.
He said the most difficult goal to obtain in the No Child Left Behind Act is reaching proficient levels for the special education students.
Casey said they agree with the overall goals set out in Education YES! and No Child Left Behind, but they have some problems with the details.