Champs Part II: Bridge celebrates first-ever rankings of Michigan schools

Welcome to Bridge Magazine’s first-ever Academic State Champs awards for individual schools across Michigan. More than 3,200 schools (traditional public schools and charters) were judged on state and national test scores over three years, with student income levels factored in for each school.

Last week, Bridge and our media partners at published our fourth annual State Champs awards for school districts across the state. This, however, is the first year Bridge has been able to gather enough school-level test score trends and poverty data to rank individual elementary, middle and high schools in Michigan, bestowing State Champs status on more than 100 schools.

These school-level winners ‒ comprising the top 5 percent of more than 3,200 schools across Michigan ‒ represent every region of the state, from villages to urban areas, communities with large immigrant populations, wealthy suburbs and stretches of rural poverty. It also includes schools with nontraditional student populations and more innovative approaches to education, including charter schools, arts schools, schools offering International Baccalaureate degrees, and a more focused path to college-level credit.

At the other end of the spectrum, our 2014 analysis also uncovers schools that are not getting good results for their students, including a number of charter schools as well as way too many schools from Detroit.

Bridge’s analysis this year is made possible by underwriting from Herman Miller Cares (Donors and underwriters to Bridge and its parent, the nonprofit Center for Michigan, have no control over editorial content).

As with our district rankings, the methodology and data analysis for school-level rankings were independently developed by Public Sector Consultants, a public policy research firm in Lansing, and take into account the impact of poverty by analyzing how schools across Michigan perform compared with schools of similar socioeconomic levels, an acknowledgement of the debilitating impact that poverty typically has on student achievement.

This means that some poorer schools are State Champs even though they have lower raw test scores than more affluent schools that are not being honored this year. That’s because students at these State Champs schools more significantly outperformed students at peer schools when income is considered.

You can check our methodology, as well as some frequently asked questions about our analysis. Our partners at MLive also offer a video explainer.

Enjoy our schools database, see how your school compares with schools across town and around the state. And congratulations to Bridge’s inaugural class of Academic State Champs schools.

CORRECTION: Bridge republished revised individual elementary school rankings on February 11, one day after publishing the original rankings. Bridge’s data provider, Public Sector Consultants, Inc., discovered a computer programming error after publication which required re-scoring and re-ranking elementary schools. As a result, two additional schools received Academic State Champs awards and many schools’ individual rank order changed. The computer programming error did not impact or change our originally published rankings of school districts, high schools or middle schools. Bridge and Public Sector Consultants regret the error. Click here for further explanation of how Public Sector Consultants corrected the error and re-verified that all other computer programming and rankings are accurate.

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Stephen Monsma
Tue, 02/10/2015 - 12:13pm
Thanks for this ranking. If used properly, it can become an important step forward in improving education for all our children. But I wonder why only traditional public and charter schools are included in your survey, leaving out the hundreds of nonpublic schools. They too contribute to the public welfare of Michigan by educating thousands of our children. How they compare in educational results with charter and traditional public schools would give the public, parents, and policy makers important, helpful information.
Thu, 02/12/2015 - 10:27am
I think one of the issues with including nonpublic schools is that parents pay a lot of money for their children to attend these schools, and factoring in income could mean unfairly dragging them down. If there was a separate list for only nonpublic schools and a combined list, people could look at them without as much bias, but I don't think combining them would help the very bright students at private schools feel accomplished.
Jack Matthias
Tue, 02/10/2015 - 3:19pm
HI Mike - What grade levels are you defining as middle school and are they the same for all schools and districts? Our system has a K-6 elementary in one building and Junior/Senior High in another building. We define Junior High as 7th and 8th grades. Yet in the original rankings last week - you show three rankings for us - elementary, middle and high school. The district is Hillman and I am on the Board and it would be useful for us to know what grades are included in Middle School as we assess our results, especially since our middle school results were better than Elementary and Senior High School. Thanks
Laura Jones
Fri, 02/13/2015 - 11:24am
While the rankings are informative of some aspects of education, the risk that it is assumed to be an actual performance outcome metric is high. I think it disingenuous to call these schools out as 'State Champs' without any qualifiers. One might assume a charter school provides a superior education to call comers in this state, which is not true, Likewise, there is no mention in the calculation of the weighting of income and at what point the income becomes irrelevant to outcome. Perhaps this is because such a point is unknown. Perhaps that makes ranking like this, at least by title, very misleading. I think so.
Mon, 02/16/2015 - 8:56am
Non-public schools do not use the same test as public schools. Therefore, they can't be compared.