L'Anse Creuse Must Allow Students to Move from Schools with Performance Gaps
The new Michigan Department of Education requirement will cause L'Anse Creuse Public Schools to have to set aside $150,000 for transportation and other associated costs.
A requirement mandated by the Michigan Department of Education for schools with large gaps in performance will mean the possibility of increased school-to-school transfers in L'Anse Creuse Public Schools.
As part of a set of requirements for state-named "Focus Schools," districts will–beginning in the 2012-13 school year–have to allow a number of students to move out of any school in that category and into another designated school within the district.
The requirement only applies to schools that are receiving Title I dollars–a federal program that helps to fund schools with high percentages of students from low-income families. Districts are left to decide how many spots will be open for each school, but must provide transportation for these transferred students to the new school.
The district is required to set aside 10 percent of its Title 1 funding for these transportation costs.
For L'Anse Creuse, this will mean that the district has to set aside approximately $150,000 to cover transportation for students that transfer out of one of the district's Focus schools, Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Edward Okuniewski said.
According to Vanessa Keesler, the head of Evaluation, Research and Accountability for the Michigan Department of Education, this school-of-choice policy has always been in place for schools that have not achieved AYP status.
But the Focus School designation–applied to 358 schools in 176 districts across the state–is one of three new categories identified by the MDE, which released its statewide school report cards on Thursday.
Reward Schools are the top 5 percent of all Michigan schools and the top 5 percent making the greatest academic progress (Green Elementary School and Joseph M. Carkenord Elementary School in LCPS); Priority Schools are the lowest achieving schools in the state; Focus Schools are the 10 percent of schools with the widest academic disparity between the top 30 percent of students and the bottom 30 percent.
Two L'Anse Creuse schools received the Focus School designation: Marie C. Graham Elementary School and L'Anse Creuse Middle School Central.
Both are receiving Title I funding, meaning that the district must allow those students to transfer to other schools in the district if they so choose.
But the community should not interpret this designation to mean "Focus" schools are failing, Okuniewski said. In fact, these focus schools made AYP.
"It’s interesting because our schools on the Focus list, Graham and Middle School Central, both really catapulted in terms of scores," he said. "We were looking forward to celebrating their overall proficiency scores, then this came out ... What’s interesting is just about every district has some (focus schools). The best school districts around have them."
Regardless, Okuniewski said the district is making preparations to comply with MDE guidelines for district schools.
That includes informing parents of the choice to move to by Aug. 21. The number of students that will be allowed to transfer is still being decided, as well as which schools the students will move to.
Okuniewski said the district doesn't expect a large percentage of students to move, but said preparations will be made for those opting to transfer.
“It’s usually a small percentage of kids that do transfer," he said. "Both of those schools really did jump in their performance. At Graham Elementary, they jumped double-digit points in proficiency and usually parents are pretty darn happy with their schools when their kids are learning and performing.”
Beyond allowing some students to transfer schools, Focus Schools must utilize an MDE-provided District Toolkit, plus MDE-trained and paid-for District Improvement Facilitators. Both are aimed at closing the achievement gap.
Districts will have one year to self-diagnose and self-prescribe customized changes in their supports to the Focus Schools and their students, according to the MDE. There are escalating supports and consequences for Focus Schools that do not close their achievement gaps.
“We are committed to closing the achievement gaps in all of our schools for all of our students,” state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan said of Focus Schools. “With this measure of transparency, schools will be identified and held accountable for the achievement of all of their students.”
While there were no Focus school identified in Chippewa Valley or New Haven districts, the MDE designated seven in Utica Community Schools: Burr Elementary, Dresden Elementary, Frank Jeannette Jr. High, Adlai Stevenson High, Bruce Collins Elementary, Dekeyser Elementary and Heritage Junior High.