HOUGHTON - A large number of Copper Country schools ranked higher than other schools in the state per the Michigan top-to-bottom rankings released by the state of Michigan this week.
Houghton-Portage Township Schools and Hancock Public Schools reigned supreme, achieving ranks in the 95th percentile for Houghton High School and in the 93rd percentile for Hancock Middle School.
This is the second year the state has created statewide rankings and the methodology has changed since the last ranking. Therefore, a school's rank in 2010 is not directly comparable to its rank in 2011.
While ranking schools, achievement and growth rankings are based on student achievement on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program for elementary and middle school students and the Michigan Merit Examination for high school students. If a school received a rank of 95, such as Houghton High School, it means 95 percent of schools statewide scored below the school's results.
Doreen Klingbeil, superintendent at Houghton-Portage Township Schools, credits the curriculum for the success achieved at the district.
"We have consistently done well," she said. "We ranked high last year as well and I think it's due to the quality of our curriculum."
Klingbeil said the district offers the students a variety of courses and teachers provide students with a rigorous curriculum.
"I think our students are motivated to learn, as well," she said. "I think that the schools in the area provide an excellent education and I think our area schools take a priority in knowing the curriculum, providing it to our students, being on top of it and I think our community supports that."
Houghton Middle School ranked at 83 while Houghton Elementary School came in at 64.
All three of the schools in the Hancock Public School system - Hancock Central High School, Hancock Middle School and Gordon D. Barkell Elementary - fared well, ranking 81, 93 and 88, respectively. Monica Healy, superintendent of Hancock Public Schools, echoed Klingbeil's comments.
"It shows the hard work we do," she said.
This year, the top-to-bottom rankings also include achievement gap data for all schools and graduation rates for high schools.
Healy said the fact that the state closed the gap analysis helped the district in a way. Because the teachers at Hancock are able to work with lower education students and bring them up, it's helped the district in scoring, she said.
"I think the scoring is more balanced now," she said.
E.B. Holman Elementary School of Stanton Township Public Schools came in at 85, C.L.K. Elementary School was ranked 81, Chassell Township School District K-12 ranked 72, Calumet High School followed at 69 and Washington Middle School came in at 66. Lake Linden-Hubbell Elementary School ranked 57, Baraga Area High School ranked 56, T.R. Davis Elementary School in Dollar Bay came in at 50, Philip Latendresse School in Baraga ranked 46, L'Anse High School came in at 46, L'Anse Middle School ranked 44, C.J. Sullivan Elementary School in L'Anse ranked 36, Lake Linden-Hubbell High School came in at 36 and South Range Elementary School completed the schools under the umbrella of the Copper Country Intermediate School District at 32.
In order to calculate its statewide ranking, a school needs to have a minimum of 30 students tested in at least two subjects during the last two years. As a result, schools like Dollar Bay High School and Jeffers High School were left out of the mix. However, CCISD Superintendent Dennis Harbour said that is not a direct reflection of Copper Country schools that may have scored lower.
He said it's difficult to look at the scores on the report from a short-term end and realize it is a long-term trend. If next year, the same small schools are on the bottom, such as South Range Elementary School and Lake Linden-Hubbell High School, that would lead one to believe there is a trend.
"The problem with (ranking) small schools, is that one kid can skew the whole score," he said.
Harbour said it would appear they would be lower performing but that may not be the case. With smaller schools, there's less of a chance of variance, he said.
"You need to continually, year after year, look at the district as a whole," he said.
Harbour said the numbers also need to be viewed an a district-wide basis rather than exclusively at each level, such as high school, middle school and elementary school.