Center in Detroit Media Spotlight

Awards presented to Thirkell Elementary, other DPS schools

Detroit-area media are widely touting the accomplishments of Thirkell Elementary School, which is the top-ranked school on the Mackinac Center’s new Elementary and Middle School Context and Performance report card. Thirkell is one of eight in Detroit Public Schools that placed among the top 100 on the report card. Some 2,300 schools statewide were ranked.

Audrey Spalding, education policy director, and Dan Armstrong, marketing and communications team leader, were at Thirkell Tuesday to present the schools — all of which received “A” grades — with awards. The report card takes into account the socioeconomic status of students in each school in order to compare test scores, providing an “apples-to-apples” comparison for parents, teachers and legislators.

“I think the main thing that we’re going to do with the recognition as being number one is that we’re going to stay number one,” Dr. Clara Smith, principal at Thirkell, told WJBK-TV2.

Thirkell has been rated one of the worst schools in the state by the Michigan Department of Education on its “Top to Bottom” list, which only compares raw test scores. Such rankings, however, fail to take into account the impact of poverty on education.

“We didn’t want to penalize schools that educate students who come from needy backgrounds,” Education Policy Director Audrey Spalding told WXYZ-TV7.

WXON-TV20 reported that the Center’s rankings are based on four years of student test data, and will be repeated again in two years.

Spalding explains more about Thirkell’s success in this video.

MLive reported that although 90 percent of students at Thirkell are from low-income families, some 84 percent of fifth graders at the school scored "proficient" in math and reading in the 2012 MEAP tests.

Spalding and Smith discussed the report card's findings on "The Frank Beckmann Show" on WJR AM760. Thirkell, part of Detroit Public Schools, ranked first in the state according to the Center's findings, and Spalding was also interviewed about Thirkell on WDET, Wayne State University's public radio.

Media around the state previously reported on the findings in the report card.