New School Report Card Produces 'Apples-to-Apples' Comparison of Michigan Public High School Performance by Adjusting for Student Family Poverty Levels

Study finds town and rural high schools outperforming city and suburban ones on average

For Immediate Release
Thursday, July 19, 2012
Contact: Michael Van Beek
Director of Education Policy
Michael D. Jahr
Vice President for Communications

MIDLAND — Every standard public high school in Michigan is evaluated and graded in the “Michigan Public High School Context and Performance Report Card” published today by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The CAP Report Card examines public high school performance while taking into account family income, producing an “apples-to-apples” comparison for parents and policymakers.

“Education research consistently shows that socioeconomic factors have a significant impact on standardized test results,” said Michael Van Beek, the Center’s director of education policy and a coauthor of the report card. “This is the first-of-its-kind attempt in Michigan to take this reality into account, and it helps us identify outstanding schools that by most measures would appear mediocre.”

A prime example is the Star International Academy, a public charter school in Dearborn Heights. Although its raw test scores hover around the state average, about 90 percent of the school’s students are from low-income households. Adjusting for this makes clear that the academy is exceeding its projected performance better than any other school in the state, and it accordingly received the highest mark on the CAP Report Card.

Four years’ worth of Michigan Merit Exam and ACT® test scores were adjusted based on the percentage of students in a high school who qualified for a free or reduced-price lunch. A high school’s “CAP Score” indicates how far above or below projections a high school performed given its student population’s socioeconomic status, with 100 set as the standard.

The CAP Report Card categorizes scores by locale, enabling easy comparisons among and within city, suburban, town and rural areas. High schools located in towns had an average CAP Score of 101.5, the highest of the four locale groups, followed by rural high schools with a score of 101. Suburban high schools were next at 100, and city high schools were last at 98.9. However, high schools in midsize and small cities averaged higher CAP Scores than any suburban locale subgroup. Rural remote high schools averaged the highest overall CAP Scores among locale subgroups at 103.9.

The top-scoring individual high schools in each major locale group were:

- City: Cesar Chavez High School (Charter-Detroit), 135.4 CAP Score

- Suburb: Star International Academy (Charter-Dearborn Heights), 140.8 CAP Score

- Town: Calumet High School (Calumet), 114.2 CAP Score

- Rural: North Huron School (Kinde), 123.3 CAP Score

“The CAP Report Card has useful information for everyone,” said Van Beek. “It will enable parents to make informed school choice decisions, provide school officials with a better assessment of their school’s performance, and help policymakers identify high-performing schools and practices in an area that makes up the largest single state expenditure.”

Jonathan Mills and Daniel Bowen of the University of Arkansas coauthored the study with Van Beek. The full report card is available online here: