A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

On Aug. 4, the Michigan Dept. of Education issued a press release with the headline: "More Michigan Schools Making AYP." In it, Gov. Jennifer Granholm touted the achievement as "steady progress" for preparing students for college and the workplace.

Twelve days later, the Department of Education issued another release identifying its 92 "persistently lowest achieving schools" in a "Top to Bottom" ranking. The state's Superintendent of Public Instruction, Mike Flanagan, said these schools were "in distress."

"Students in these schools are not receiving the education they need and deserve," said Flanagan in the release. "That has to change and we will work together to bring about that change." 

But 55 school buildings were on both lists.

For example, Waverly Middle School near Lansing was given a "B" grade in its Department of Education report card and met the AYP status. However, it was also listed as one of the 92 schools in distress.

Michael Van Beek, the Mackinac Center For Public Policy's education policy director, called the different methodologies used by the state to evaluate the quality of schools "confusing."

"It's unfortunate that taxpayers and parents don't have a consistent measure by which to judge the quality of the limited number of options they have for where to send their kids to school," Van Beek wrote in an e-mail.

The state's Department of Education website defines Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) as the cornerstone of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The AYP score takes into consideration the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) and the Michigan Merit Examination, as well as high school graduation rates and the number of students who participate in assessments.

The "Top-to-Bottom" ranking is determined by using student test scores in math and reading for the MEAP and Michigan Merit Examination from 2006-2010 school years.

In addition to individual buildings, some of the school districts on the state's report cards also placed on both lists as meeting AYP standards and being "in distress" at the same time.

State Department of Education Spokeswoman Jan Ellis said the "Top-to-Bottom" ranking for schools in distress was done independent of the AYP grading.

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Star International Academy is the highest ranked high school in Michigan on the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's Contest and Performance report card for both 2014 and 2012. The study and a database of every school in the state can be found at www.Mackinac.org/CAP.

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