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Nearly all Michigan school districts meet improvement standards

By Amy F. Bailey

LANSING -- Nearly all of Michigan's 542 school districts measured for improvements they make in students' reading, writing and math abilities made adequate progress this year.

State education officials said Friday that nearly 96 percent of the school districts required to have a report met the standards laid out in the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which mostly are based on the standardized test scores and graduation rates.

The number of districts that met the adequate yearly progress standards improved from 431 last year to 518 this year. The number of districts that didn't meet them dropped from 109, or 20 percent, in 2004 to 24, or 4 percent, this year, the Michigan Department of Education said.

The state has more than 800 traditional K-12 districts, charter schools and intermediate school districts. Districts that have only one building were excluded from Friday's report, which dropped the number to 542.

More Michigan schools made adequate yearly progress this year than last, but new state superintendent Mike Flanagan said it's too early to assume there is a trend because the law, signed in 2001, still is new.

"It will be difficult to show definitive trends between the years, at least in these initial years, because the system will continue to be refined and adjusted at both the state and federal levels," Flanagan said in a statement.

Friday's announcement also included some bad news.

Two charter schools, six intermediate school districts and 11 school districts failed to make adequate yearly progress for two consecutive years, Department of Education spokesman Martin Ackley said. The list includes districts in Detroit, Kalamazoo, Monroe and Muskegon.

Districts that fail to meet federal progress guidelines for two years must get help from parents, school staff and others to come up with a plan to boost achievement, professional development and parental involvement, Ackley said. Penalties depend on the number of years schools and districts have been out of compliance with the federal progress standards.

There are dozens of ways for districts to miss the No Child Left Behind standards, many of which are imposed by the state's own rules.

Poor scores on Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests in reading, writing or math can hurt a district as can poor performance by smaller groups, including special education students or members of a racial or ethnic group. State education officials noted that the U.S. Department of Education recently allowed Michigan and other states to count more of the test scores of special needs students as proficient.

While more Michigan school districts met the federal progress standards this year, more districts saw their grades on the state Education YES! accreditation report cards go down. The state grades are based on the MEAP and other factors, such as family involvement, curriculum, student attendance and special programs.

Nearly three-quarters of Michigan's 3,670 public schools got an A or B on their state report cards, the Education Department said. However, the number of schools listed as D/Alert went up from last year's 70 to 126 this year.

"Our goal is to encourage those schools doing well to do better, and to continue providing assistance to schools not yet meeting the standards," State Board of Education President Kathleen N. Straus said.

Determining which school districts meet federal and state standards will be slightly different next year because of new federal requirements that begin in the upcoming school year.

Students in fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth grads have taken the MEAP test in previous years, but beginning this fall, students between third and eighth grades will be tested every year in at least math and English. Fifth- and eighth-graders also will be tested on science and sixth-graders will have to show proficiency in social studies.

The number of students being tested will nearly double from 520,000 last year to 910,000 this fall.

On the Net:

Michigan Department of Education: http://www.michigan.gov/mde

— Amy F. Bailey, Associated Press
Detroit News


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