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Northville Schools Look to Close Achievement Gap

State's AYP identified three "Focus Schools," signifying achievement gaps between high-achieving, low-achieving students.

Northville Public Schools is looking to close achievement gaps at three district schools identified last week as "Focus Schools" in the state's annual  .

Focus Schools are defined as the 10 percent of schools with the widest achievement gaps, meaning the academic disparity between the top 30 percent of students and the bottom 30 percent. That list includes 358 schools statewide, many who in the past would be considered high-achieving. The schools are now charged with bridging the gap.

, and  were identified as Focus Schools.

Amerman Elementary, however, houses the district's elementary gifted program, Alternative Learning Program for Students (ALPS). Because of this, Superintendent Mary K. Gallagher said in a news release, the gap between highest-achieving and lowest-achieving students is sizable.

"It is important to note that the achievement gap at Amerman is inherently likely to be greater when compared with other elementary schools because students from across all six elementary schools who qualify for ALPS (based on their higher performance on assessments) attend Amerman," Gallagher said in a news release. 

Gallagher also said the fact the highest-level students often are sent from other elementary buildings means the achievement gaps at those buildings are affected.

"A magnet gifted program, such as ALPS, also reduces the achievement gap at the schools who send some of their highest performing students to the magnet school," she said.

Focus Schools designation could mean loss of students for one school

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.

Of the two middle schools in Northville cited as Focus Schools, Meads Mill is a Title 1 school, while Hillside is not. 

Gallagher added that Title 1 schools appearing as Focus Schools have added communication and compliance requirements to implement before the start of the 2012-13 school year.

"Any set of data or process for rank-ordering information has both strengths and pitfalls that are important to understand," Gallagher said. "We will use this information, together with other measures of student performance, to improve our curriculum, instructional practices, and to enhance student intervention and support programs to further enable success for all students across the spectrum of learners.”

District looks to make improvements at each building

Additionally, the district is looking to make improvements at each school building using a variety of criteria.

“While the (Michigan Department of Education) lists are derived from analysis of MEAP and MME data alone, Northville Public Schools continues to use a variety of national, state, and local assessments to track district, school, and individual student performance with a focus on learning and achievement growth,” Assistant Superintendent for Instructions Robert Behnke said in the news release. 

In the MDE's report, five Northville schools were cited as "Reward Schools," a new designation identifying the top five percent of schools in Michigan that also have made significant gains in academic progress in recent years.

, , ,  and  were cited as Reward Schools.

Another measure of performance on the report cards is the Education Yes! grade, which is based on student achievement, achievement growth and self-assessments from schools. 

Amerman Elementary, Moraine Elementary and Silver Springs Elementary all received the highest grade in the district, an "A," while , Meads Mill Middle School, Winchester Elementary, Thornton Creek Elementary, Hillside Middle School and Ridge Wood Elementary all earned the lowest district grade, a "B."

All of Northville's schools , despite more stringent cut scores this year. 

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