News Story

Top Rated School Could Be Closed in Battle Creek

While state criticized for not closing failed schools, one city may close its best

The Battle Creek school district is considering a proposal to close three elementary schools, including one that is by far the best performing school in the district academically.

That school is called Urbandale Elementary. Its staff and students may learn their fate on Thursday, when the Battle Creek Public Schools Board of Education may vote on the closures, according to the Battle Creek Enquirer.

Urbandale Elementary has a profile shared by many urban schools. Three out of every four students there — 78.3 percent — are considered “economically disadvantaged," meaning they qualify for government free- or reduced-lunch programs. The proportion is significantly higher than the district average of 63 percent.

The school also saw 57.4 percent of its students deemed “chronically absent” in the 2014-15 school year, defined by the state as missing 10 or more school days. Again, that was higher that the district’s average, which was 37.7 percent.

Compared to all Michigan public schools — most of which don't face such challenges — Urbandale’s academic performance doesn’t look good. It scored in the bottom 8 percent on the last edition (2013-2014) of a Top-to-Bottom ranking that had been put out by the Michigan Department of Education.

But the state list has been criticized for not taking into account students' socio-economic status, which education experts say plays a huge role in how well students do in school.

When the Mackinac Center for Public Policy created a school report card that makes apples-to-apples comparisons between schools whose student bodies face similar challenges, Urbandale did much better at overcoming those challenges. For the 2009-2012 time period, it beat 92.5 percent of all Michigan schools when adjusted for socio-economic status, and 84.1 percent of all schools for the 2012 to 2014 period, earning it grades of A and B respectively.

No other school in the Battle Creek district received an A or B on this report card.

The two other Battle Creek elementary schools on the possible cut list — Fremont and Dudley — were both given a grade of F by the Mackinac Center. This time, the state’s Top-to-Bottom rankings concurred, placing both schools among the state’s worst 1 percent.

Battle Creek Public School Board President Todd Stagner, Vice President Art McClenney and Superintendent Kim Parker-DeVauld didn't return emails seeking comment.