Adequate Yearly Progress results released by the Michigan Department of Education on Thursday don't necessarily give the full picture of what's happening in Dearborn Public Schools, school officials say.
In a press conference on Thursday, Supt. Brian Whiston gave the district's take on the school report cards, which named Dearborn as a district not meeting its goals.
Whiston admitted that some schools–such as and high schools–"need improvement across the board," he maintained that the district's efforts toward proficiency in such subjects as reading and math are showing progress.
"We believe we've already got changes in place ... and the changes we've been making are the ones we'll continue," Whiston said. "We have to read each day, in every class, and do math every day."
Putting Scores in Perspective
New this year, the MDE recognizes some schools as reward schools, priority schools and focus schools–basically translating to top-performing or most-improved; lowest-performing; and schools showing a large gap between the highest and lowest performance, respectively.
Dearborn had five schools–Henry Ford Early College; Lowrey and Woodworth Middle Schools; and Maples and Whitmore-Bolles Elementary Schools–appear on the Reward Schools list, placing them among the top 5 percent in the state.
But Dearborn's , , and Elementary Schools; ; and Edsel Ford and Fordson High Schools are among the 358 schools state–wide named as Focus Schools.
The district is now charged with the task of closing the gap between low- and high-performing students.
Whiston pointed out, however, that several of those schools are among the highest-performing overall in the district, such as Bryant, which is the top-scoring middle school in Dearborn in terms of standardized test scores.
"In a way, this is something to celebrate," Whiston said. "We just have to push our bottom students."
Still, he noted that the is somewhat unfair.
"I like it better than the old (AYP) system, because it rewards schools for improvement," Whiston said. "But (the Focus School designation) hurts the credibility of what we're trying to accomplish."
Essentially, he explained, a school with consistently average performance would not be flagged as needing improvement, while a school with some average and some excelling students would.
"I'm frustrated that good school districts are potentially getting a black eye," he added.
District Efforts Toward Progress
Despite disagreement over some of the MDE designations for Dearborn Schools, Whiston said the district is strengthening efforts already in place to increase performance–not just on standardized tests, but college-readiness and graduation rates.
One success story he pointed out was Maples Elementary, which was named as a Reward School by the MDE.
"Just a few years ago, Maples was close to being on the state takeover list (because of low scores)," Whiston said.
It's a sign, he added, that Dearborn's efforts are working.
Among the most highly touted of those efforts are the for increased reading in classes, instruction for parents ranging from literacy to homework help, and innovative ways of teaching.
"We want kids and technology leading instruction," Whiston said. "I want kids working harder."
"Our schools are performing well," he continued. "But we need to do better and we're going to take that challenge head on."