HANCOCK - The Michigan Department of Education has a new method for measuring the effectiveness of schools, and Hancock Public Schools is doing well based on the new system, according to Monica Healy.
During the regular meeting of the Board of Education Monday, Healy, who is superintendent, told members state education officials have changed the way they determine a school's success or lack of success.
The new system replaces the former Annual Yearly Progress report and district report cards, Healy said. In the past, the average proficiency of a school was what state officials looked at. Now, the emphasis is on how well a school is doing to increase the success of the students who may not be doing well.
"(In the past), the kids who were low, there was no focus on them," she said.
Healy said the new School Accountability Scorecard includes the previously used Top to Bottom Ranking, as well as a rating of Reward, Focus or Priority schools.
According to information from the MDE, with the School Accountability Scorecard, schools are rated with a points for goals met system: 85 percent or better is the top; then 70 to 84 percent; 60 to 69 percent; 50 to 59 percent; and the lowest of less than 50 percent.
"When you first start looking at them, they're quite complicated," Healy said.
With the new system, Healy said more data is collected and there are more measurements of students' efforts.
"It tells you more specifically what you're doing wrong, and more specifically where you're improving," she said.
The new system also takes into account subgroups, such as gender and socioeconomic groups.
"If you have a lower socioeconomic group, they typically don't do as well," she said.
According to the information from MDE, Reward schools are in the top 5 percent in the Top to Bottom ranking in the state, as well as the top 5 percent of schools making the greatest academic progress over the previous four years. Priority schools are those in the bottom 5 percent in the Top to Bottom ranking and any high school with a graduation rate less than 60 percent for three consecutive years. Focus schools are the 10 percent of schools with the widest achievement gap between the highest and lowest performing students.
Of the three Hancock schools, Central High School has an 88 percent ranking in the state, which means students there performed better than 88 percent of similar schools in the state and is a Reward school, Hancock Middle School has a 62 percent ranking with no designation, and Gordon G. Barkell Elementary School has a 74 percentile ranking and is a Reward school.
Healy said the elementary school is a Beating the Odds school, which means it is either outperforming their expected ranking or outperforming other similarly-situated schools.
Although she knew the Hancock schools were doing well, Healy said she was pleased the state rankings show that.
"We know we still have a lot of work to do at all three levels, and we'll continue to do what we need to do," she said. "We're very proud of the staff and the kids for the recognition."
After Healy gave her presentation, board member Glenn North asked if the district is doing so well, why does it continue to lose students, and Healy said she isn't certain.
When parents remove their children from the district, Healy said she asks them why and gets various answers, particularly that they live closer to another district or another district is closer to their work.
Healy said she thinks some parents aren't telling her exactly why they're leaving.
Hancock Central High School Principal John Sanregret, who was at the meeting, said the high school isn't losing students, and does well attracting Schools of Choice students.
"We've got 20 percent of the students in the high school who school- of-choiced into Hancock," he said. "I think there's a misconception of how there's just an exodus of kids."
Healy said she will be making parents aware of the results of the School Accountability Scorecard.
"We're a great school," she said. "I'd put us up against anyone."
On another issue, the board members approved a new policy for students who want to opt out of taking final semester exams in a class.
Sanregret said this will be the second pilot year for the policy, which requires a student have an 87 percent or better overall grade in a particular class to opt out of the final exam. Students who have 87 percent or better must not have more than three absences during the semester. An addition to the policy is students who have 94 percent or better will be allowed one more absence.
If a student is qualified to opt out of the final exam but chooses to take it anyway, Sanregret said if the student does poorly on the final exam, that won't affect the student's final grade for the class. The final grade can only be improved if the student does well on the final exam.
Sanregret said he realizes he needs to give board members and parents more information about how the new final exam policy is working, and he said he will do that after this second pilot year.
"I'll do a better job of collecting data," he said.
Board members voted unanimously to approve the new final exam policy.
Healy read a resignation letter from board President Mark Peters, who Healy said has been on the board since 1992.
In his resignation letter, Peters said the district is in good shape, so now was a good time for him to leave.
Healy said Peters has been an important part of the board of education for many years.
"He will be greatly missed," she said.
Board members accepted Peters' resignation. Healy said now the vacant position will be advertised, and hopefully, board members will be able to appoint someone soon. Peters' term is finished in November 2014.
In other business, board members:
approved the resignation of paraprofessional aide Josh Frantii, who got a job with the Copper Country Intermediate School District.
approved fundraising for a trip to Orlando, Fla., for the senior class.
approved the latest version of the district Deficit Elimination Plan.