By Kelsey Block
The Holt Journal
At the October Board of Education meeting, Holt Curriculum Director Ruth Riddle reported that six schools in the district have a significant achievement gap.
Earlier this year, the Michigan Department of Education released a top-to-bottom ranking of schools in the state. The list is based on data collected through the 2013-2014 MEAP tests.
Six schools in the Holt District were designated as focus schools this year in the Michigan Department of Education’s top-to-bottom ranking. Focus schools are highlighted in blue.
Within that list, schools can receive one of three designations: reward, focus or priority. Reward schools are the top 5 percent of schools in the ranking, priority schools are the bottom 5 percent of schools, and focus schools are the 10 percent of schools that have a significant gap in achievement between the highest and lowest scoring students.
Out of Ingham County’s 72 schools, 23 are focus schools. Six of those are in the Holt School District. Dimondale Elementary, Elliott Elementary, Holt Junior High, Hope Middle School, Sycamore Elementary School and Wilcox Elementary were all designated as focus schools.
A school can be labeled a focus school even if it’s meeting all state requirements. For example, all six of Holt’s focus schools met most state standards last year.
Laura Colligan is the school improvement and leadership consultant with the Ingham County Intermediate School District. Before moving to the ISD, Colligan was the principal at Dimondale Elementary. She said the purpose of the designation is to encourage schools to look deeper at the data, even if they’re doing well on state tests.
“When you become dedicated as a focus school, you need to do a district-level systems check to make sure you’re servicing all kids,” Colligan said. “Meaning, they want you to be aware you have issues in your system.”
According to its website, the Michigan Department of Education developed the designations as part of the approved No Child Left Behind Act flexibility waiver, which gave states the option to request flexibility from accountability metrics set in place by the act.
“You give it a ranking, so there’s always got to be one at the top and one at bottom,” Colligan said. She added that a variety of factors can contribute to achievement gaps in the classroom, like teachers not having enough time or training to be able to properly identify and work with students who aren’t scoring at the top.