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Michigan Schools List Schools According to NCLB Demands

State adds 544 schools to failing list -- for now

LANSING -- Letters have been mailed to 544 middle and elementary schools that have been added to a list of 216 Michigan schools in need of improvement.

But many of those schools expect to be off the list again in August when another year of test scores are analyzed for improvement.

For now, however, it means one out of every four middle and elementary schools in the state -- 760 out of 3,000 -- is designated as failing to make adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

The 544 schools listed appear to be mostly an exercise to appease federal officials displeased with Michigan's interpretation of the No Child Left Behind law.

"We're following the parameters the federal government outlined for us," said T.J. Bucholz, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Education.

Schools remaining on the list after August must offer to transport students to schools with better test scores, provide after-school tutoring or undertake an array of school improvement activities.

The number of schools has been a moving target for a year, starting with the announcement last July by the U.S. Department of Education that Michigan had 1,500 so-called failing schools, the most of any state. But by the time state officials released an official list in April, the number had dropped to 216.

Federal officials had objected to Michigan's interpretation that a school making progress for a single year could avoid the consequences of the federal law. Federal officials said the schools needed two years of progress.

At one point, state officials said 1,118 schools would be added back to the list, but state Deputy Superintendent Jeremy Hughes said the number was whittled in half because some schools made adequate progress the past three years.

The new No Child Left Behind law requires two consecutive years of progress, but an older law used two out of three years, and state officials decided to use the law corresponding to the older data.

Caught in the politics are dozens of local schools, told that they are failing even before the latest round of MEAP scores are released. Belmont Elementary School in Rockford made the list, but district officials expect the new scores to prove that the school is not a failure.

Michael Micele, Rockford's assistant superintendent for instruction, blamed the state for putting out a list just days before the scores are to arrive.

"I'm really ticked off that they would do that," Micele said. "If the results had gotten done on time, (Belmont) wouldn't be on the list. Just because the scores have been delayed, they're going to slap up Belmont one more time.

"It's their screw-up, not ours. To get the education community and parents to take these things seriously, they've got to quit doing this."

All four Grandville schools cited on the list achieved adequate yearly progress last year. And the district is "very confident that our students nailed it" again, Superintendent Ron Caniff said.

"For some type of a list to be disseminated is wrong," he said. "To me, that's premature because we're waiting for results."

Also awaiting results is Zeeland's Lincoln Elementary, which district spokesman Jim Cammenga said is far from a failing school.

"Federal standards don't always reflect what's going on in the local communities," he said.

The status of Michigan's schools should be more clear by mid-August when the latest adequate yearly progress report is released based on 2002-03 test scores for middle and elementary schools.

State officials acknowledge the startup of No Child Left Behind has been difficult.

"I think it's confusing for parents. I think it's confusing for schools. It's confusing for us," Bucholz said.

For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/mde and click on "Adequate Yearly Progress" on the right side.

— Judy Putnam and Matt Vandebunte
State adds 544 schools to failing list -- for now
Grand Rapids Press
July 12, 2003


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