In November, we released our “Context and Performance” report card for public high schools throughout Michigan. This is the Mackinac Center’s latest annual school report card. High school grades were calculated using the past four years of student academic achievement at each school, providing a more stable measure of school success.
Star International Academy, a public charter school in Dearborn, was the top-scoring school in the state in 2014. This shouldn’t be a surprise — Star International was No. 1 on the Center’s 2012 report card, too.
While there are a number of other public school report cards, Mackinac Center experts are the first to measure school performance by accounting for student socioeconomic background. Since student background can have a tremendous impact on academic results, report cards that do not adjust for it run the risk of penalizing schools that serve high-poverty areas.
The report card considers student background by using regression analysis to adjust school-level test scores by taking the percentage of students in poverty at a school into account. By adjusting for student background, the report card provides more of an “apples-to-apples” comparison, allowing schools to be compared throughout the state.
Covert High School is one example of a school that is typically penalized for serving a high-poverty population. Nearly all of the students attending Covert district schools — 96 percent — are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, a program extended to low-income families.
In 2014, the Michigan Department of Education ranked Covert High School among the bottom 26 percent of schools. However, Covert received an ‘A’ on the Mackinac Center’s report card, scoring in the top 90 percent of schools. In other words, Covert High School is posting higher test scores than other schools with similar student populations.
“We definitely don’t use demographics as an excuse,” Covert Superintendent Bobbi Morehead told the Mackinac Center. Morehead suggested that state and school officials consider student academic growth over time rather than at just one point. “Take a look at where students are and hold people accountable for the progress they make,” she said.
Newspapers throughout Michigan reported on the report card, including the Dearborn Press and Guide, the Battle Creek Enquirer, the Kalamazoo Gazette, the Macomb Daily, the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium and the Oakland Press.
This report card is one of the Mackinac Center’s most popular publications among school officials. In the weeks following its publication, we received thank-you notes and calls from school officials, as well as requests for additional copies.
This study is available online at Mackinac.org/s2014-08.