Sister Lakes earns ‘A’ on report card

Published 9:49 pm Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sister Lakes students enjoy their year-end Relay for Life fundraiser.

Sister Lakes students enjoy their year-end Relay for Life fundraiser.

Sister Lakes Elementary School carded an A as Cass County’s highest-scoring school in a new Mackinac Center for Public Policy report card.

Adjusting for student family income, Dowagiac schools rank third, fifth and eighth with B’s, with Edwardsburg second with Eagle Lake Elementary School, fourth with Edwardsburg Middle School and sixth with Edwardsburg Intermediate School.

Midland’s Mackinac Center, the largest state-based, free-market think tank in the country, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, ranked 2,362 elementary and middle schools.

The Context and Performance (CAP) report card takes student poverty level into account to better examine school performance, based on four years of student test scores, 2009 to 2012.

Four years’ worth of MEAP test scores in all subjects and for grades three through eight were adjusted based on the percentage of students in an elementary or middle school who qualified for a free lunch.

A school’s CAP score indicates how far above or below projections an elementary or middle school performed given its student population’s socioeconomic status, with 100 set as the average.

Sister Lakes, for example, scored 112.2, increasing steadily from 105 in 2009 to 106.08 in 2010, 116.64 in 2011 and 121.08 in 2012, ranking it 18th in the state; fifth-graders finished seventh. It earned B’s the first two years, A’s the past two years.

Justus Gage Elementary School earned a 106.79 CAP score, rising from 103.82 to 108.2.

Dowagiac Middle School’s 103.97 CAP score reflects it graded a C with 99.31 the first year, improving to 106.85 by 2011.

Patrick Hamilton Elementary School made C’s the first two years, but thanks to 108.68 in 2012, averaged 103.58.

Kincheloe Elementary School almost mirrors Pat Ham, with C’s improved to a 103.04 for another solid B.

“We are doing exceptionally well with the students we are teaching. You can see the growth,” Supt. Dr. Mark Daniel said Wednesday afternoon at city hall. “This is the first year they published this report for elementary and middle school. They had it for high school. It tells you that something’s going on in our buildings in regards to learning. It’s community volunteers and the focus on SATs (student assistance teams). We haven’t seen the high school report yet, but we’re going to see the freshman coaches bear fruit. Interventions are truly impacting student achievement now. Every one of our schools is producing.”

The report card also categorizes scores by locale, enabling parents, educators and policy makers to make comparisons among city, suburban, town and rural areas.

“This report card is a useful tool for parents, educators and policymakers,” said Audrey Spalding, director of education policy and author of the report card. “By taking student family background into account, it enables parents to compare schools, helps school officials assess school performance and provides policymakers with school rankings that do not penalize schools for educating needier students.”