The State of Michigan, in an effort to make school accountability simpler for parents to understand and more transparent as a whole, released a new color-coded rating system a few years ago.
It seems to us that rather than simplify the process, these new School Accountability Scorecards have added another layer of confusion.
In the new system individual schools and whole districts earn a rating of either green, lime, yellow, orange or red, with green being the best and red being the worst.
This year, and in years past, an incredibly small number of school district earned green ratings. Most manage to eke out a yellow or an orange.
Locally, our schools followed that trend. Ishpeming, Gwinn, NICE and Negaunee schools all earned a yellow rating. Marquette schools earned an orange.
But when you look at the scores for each individual school within those districts, almost all the categories show a green rating - the best possible.
Where districts seem to struggle is in the "Bottom 30 percent" category, which compares the difference in academic achievement levels between the top 30 percent of students in a district and the bottom 30 percent. It stands to reason there would be a gap there. The state is attempting to get districts to close that gap, a move we can certainly stand behind. But that category seems to have a major impact on the overall rating of a district. Too much of an impact, it seems.
The second category district's seem to struggle with is the category for students with disabilities. Because these ratings are determined based on test scores, it also doesn't seem surprising this would be a difficult category to earn a high rating in. Students with disabilities likely do not score as highly in standardized tests as their general education counterparts.
Local superintendents seem to agree with us, in that the ratings are far below what is an accurate depiction of their districts.
In an article penned by Journal Staff Writer Jackie Stark in today's newspaper, many expressed dissastifaction with their rating but say the scorecard can be used as another tool to help keep student academic achievement growing.
We're glad to see our local superintendents stand behind their teaching staff while still offering an optimistic look at what appears to be a flawed system.
We hope the Michigan Department of Education can continue to work on the ranking system, bringing it more in line with how Michigan schools are performing.