By Pat Maurer
Rumors flying across Facebook that Farwell Schools are facing a possible State takeover are false, Superintendent Carl Seiter said Thursday morning.
Seiter said that because of the new way the State is ranking schools, AYP, or Adequate Yearly Progress is no longer used to rank schools.
The State now is using the “gap” between the top 30 percent of students and the bottom 30 percent of students. If that gap is getting narrower, the school may be ranked as a “Reward” school. If the gap is getting wider, the school may be ranked as a “Focus” school.
The third and lowest level, “Priority” schools, which are schools in the bottom five percent of the State’s annual “top to bottom” list published each August, could mean State assistance or intervention for schools getting that designation. Seiter said, “None of our buildings are listed as Priority schools.”
He said the High School did get a “Focus” listing.
“Because of the college classes, and dual enrollment we have encouraged, the gap between our top 30 percent and bottom 30 percent is getting wider,” he said. “We are already looking at our MME scores and developing additional support for the bottom 30 percent of students to help close that gap.”
“Whether or not I agree with how the State does their TTB (top to bottom ranking), you can’t convince me that a student in Bloomfield Hills with doctor or lawyer as parents, will achieve at the same rate as a child in Clare or Gladwin Counties that may be wondering if there will be anything to eat for dinner.”
Harrison Superintendent Tom House said the Federal approval of the State’s “waiver” for the No Child Left Behind Act requirements included the new plan to rate schools. Without the waiver, Michigan would have been required to reach 100 percent proficiency on Michigan Merit Exams [MME] by 2014. House said several states have applied and received waivers to that requirement.
The new State requirements are the reason that Harrison Middle School parents got a letter recently giving them an option to change schools, House said.
He said Harrison Middle School was named a Focus School, one of ten percent across the State with the designation and one of three schools in the Clare Gladwin Regional Education Service District, and because they receive Title I funds, one of the requirements was to send the letter and another requirement was to set aside ten percent of the Title I funds for transportation should students be transferred to another school not designated at a Focus School.
“Harrison has an agreement with Farwell Middle School as required, House said.” He added that the letter does not mean the students have to be moved.
Harrison Middle School Principal Rick Foote said the letters were sent out in mid-August and the deadline to request a transfer was August 30. “We only received one request to transfer a student to Farwell,” Foote said. “And that request was made for reasons other than the school ranking.”
House said their middle school received the “Focus” designation because of the test scores of a subgroup of students with disabilities.
He said, “We also have a school in the top ranking – Larson Elementary was named a ‘Reward’ School, meaning that the gap between the top 30 percent and bottom 30 percent is closing.”