Compare Michigan's school districts


Bridge Magazine and the Center for Michigan announce the 2014 Academic State Champs among school districts, those ranked among the top 5 percent in the state. Districts (including charter schools) were judged on testing in eight grades over three years, taking into account poverty in each district. Bridge will announce State Champs rankings for more than 3,200 individual schools next week.

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Tue, 02/03/2015 - 10:08am
Interesting. I can't download Osceola County schools.
Mike Wilkinson
Tue, 02/03/2015 - 1:26pm
You can now find the four Osceola County districts in the data.
Tue, 02/03/2015 - 1:07pm
Very interesting and sure to prompt lots of discussion around the state. It would be nice to have more information about the methodology used, and your analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of it. There is a lot on the line for school districts with this type of information and it will be helpful to have an open discussion of the methodology. Also, I had difficulty doing any comparisons or selecting a county or grouping to view. Looking forward to doing more with this information.
Mon, 02/09/2015 - 8:40am
I don't see how a charter school that loses almost seventy percent of their staff the past two years could be ever ranked in the top ten schools in Michigan. Also, for the past eight years we had eight different special education teachers. So, please tell me how can they be ranked in the top ten. Well I guess if you just put into account test scores I see how you can be highly ranked. But if that's all you do is just teach to the test what kind of education are the students getting. So, I guess I should be happy with this ranking but I really don't know what it means. One day we will be looking back at this ranking and the charter school movement in Michigan I wonder why did we let this happen while a generation of kids will be forever lost.
david zeman
Wed, 02/04/2015 - 8:42am
Hi Tom, sorry for delayed response. We included several links to help readers with our methodology, at different levels of nerdiness. The most accessible is this explanation: The most technical is this one: And there’s this video, produced by our reporting partners at MLive: As we also noted in our introductory story, we don't make any claims that our approach of factoring poverty levels into test results is a perfect approach. Other factors undoubtedly also impact achievement levels, such as the percentage of children who receive pre-K education, as well as cultural and language factors in different communities. But income/poverty is a big one, and adjusting for this helps level the playing field in helping us determine which districts are squeezing the most potential from their student population.
Tom White
Wed, 02/04/2015 - 11:31am
Thanks David, I may not have been nerdy enough to dig all that out without your help! I really appreciate this data as it gives rise to mostly very healthy discussion/actions. Some people may tend to minimize it if their scores are low. Two most common negative reactions will be: 1) Attack the methodology; and 2) Assertions about "teaching to the test" or some such, My reaction to those criticism are: 1) This provides useful, important information that we can improve on the methodology over time (and/or give me a better methodology) if that makes sense; and 2) Why not teach to the test? I taught in college and I ALWAYS taught to my tests - why wouldn't I test over the things I thought were important; and I made sure my students knew what I thought was important. It will be interesting to see how schools use this data. I live in a nice upper SES community with schools we love. We showed poorly. If the data is accurate we'll need to use it to figure out why we are doing so poorly on this measure, and look for other measures which validate or contradict this. A good discussion to have.
Jeff King
Wed, 02/04/2015 - 3:56pm
Sometimes the methodology is flawed however Tom. Will Carlton Academy, in rural lower income Hillsdale County, is dead last for the second year in a row. The reason? They don't have a lunch program hence have very low numbers of students qualified for "free lunches" since parents don't apply for something they can't get. Where the average mean in the district is 60% free lunches with the min/max being 51%/68% respectively, Bridges flawed methodology uses 17% for this schools number, placing a school in a county whose median income is in the bottom third of the state right up there with Oakland county. Funny I couldn't find any BMW's or Lexius in the pickup line today.... Not account for the lack of a lunch program is a fatal flaw in Bridges methodology. It's ashame Mlive is contributing to this. Lets see now long this post stays before they delete it.
Thu, 02/05/2015 - 9:47am
Tom, While teaching to the test is important, in too many cases that is all that is being taught. Many colleges are now saying that not enough time is spent on critical thinking. There needs to be a mix with some weight given to critical thinking/logic criteria.
Wed, 02/04/2015 - 9:48am
Just curious if there is a way to see rankings for past years- would be nice to see which districts are moving up and who is moving down!
Jeff King
Wed, 02/04/2015 - 2:23pm
Wow.... deleting posts pointing out the flaws in your methodology
Thu, 02/05/2015 - 10:02am
Deleting comments points to the insecurity of the authors and editors here. It seems that this entire "Academic State Champs" PR campaign (complete with bumper stickers!) is simply clickbait for the Center for Michigan. It's unfortunate that the average reader of the sanitized story will never understand that while there district may be an "Academic State Champ", the proficiency scores and actual success of their students may be 1/2 of another district with a different socioeconomic distribution.
Wed, 02/04/2015 - 5:48pm
Maybe in the future Bridge will include schools from the former Oceana ISD in the ranking. The Oceana county schools are now part of West Shore ESD and have not been included in the ranking again this year.
Wed, 02/04/2015 - 7:26pm
can not find Kalamazoo Public?
Patricia M Guenther
Wed, 02/04/2015 - 7:59pm
I could not find any information on Kalamazoo School District.
Bruce Billedeaux
Tue, 02/10/2015 - 10:12am
Unfortunately the ranking are really pointless if academies are included. Since attendance is voluntary. The best and motivated kids with motivated parents, compared to compulsory attendance.
Wed, 02/11/2015 - 1:55pm
This study is a complete farce. Burr Oak, #23 in the "top 25" on an absolute basis has 4.8% of it's Juniors meeting the proficiency standard on the ACT. Breaking it down by subject, Math 14%, Reading 57%, Writing 19%, Social Studies 24%, and Science 5%. Academic Champs with less than 5% of the population passing the test. There is no way to spin that as success, based on enrollment, that works out to either 1 or 2 students in the class being proficient. Since Will Carleton has already been brought into the mix, looking at them, they have 25% of their Juniors meeting the proficiency standard on the ACT. Five times the passing rate of a "top 25" school. In the details this study looks even worse. Will Carleton on a subject basis passes Math 50%, Reading 67%, Writing 67%, Social Studies 50%, and Science 50%, making their subject scores anywhere from 1.17x to 10x Burr Oak. Absolute results matter, failing to pass subject mastery tests is still failing the test. It doesn't matter if a school fails fewer than expected students, they still failed students, and in the case of Burr Oak 95% failed the overall test. Please explain how a school with 95% failing students is ranked as a top 25 school.
John Mark Ellsworth
Wed, 02/11/2015 - 3:26pm
I love the idea of controlling for income levels and giving praise to schools that are doing better than expected. Well done! However, I wanted to be able to look more closely at my own district and find appropriate comparisons. I would like to be able to narrow the search to look at district's with similar poverty levels. For example, Grand Ledge Public Schools has 25.9% low-income students. I'd love to be able to compare Grand Ledge to districts with low-income levels plus or minus 5%… say a range of 20% to 30% low-income. But the search options do not allow for that. I'd also love to be able to search districts of similar size (maybe plus or minus 10% of Grand Ledge's size), but again the search options do not allow for that. Is there an accessible full set of data? I would love to see the subset of similar schools (nearly the same low-income % and within 10% of student population) to find out if there are districts Grand Ledge might look at get ideas for improvement. (Or are all districts similar to Grand Ledge underachieving?) Anyway, I wanted to be able to break it down a little differently than I currently am able to do. Might that be made possible? Again, I like that this ranking at least acknowledges that a school doing badly in overall results might actually be doing well when the totality of its situation is examined! Sincerely, John
Thu, 02/12/2015 - 6:54pm
So Rochester Schools High schools in Oakland county are not even listed? I filled them in and got "no data" back. Is the school below these rankings or does the software not work?
Wed, 02/18/2015 - 4:54pm
This whole scoring system is rather insulting to children everywhere. Nearly all kids have a passion for learning, especially at the early grades. By telling schools that having only 15% of 3rd graders proficient in reading 'EXCEEDS expectations' because you have a lot of poor kids is just perverted. The researchers/statisticians need to significantly reduce the weighting on lunch program recipients. Although, I think a better method would be to treat the socioeconomic factor not as a fixed variable but more as a random effect in the OLS. I tend to agree with others in the comments that there are methodology flaws, or more perhaps a lack of rigor -- there is plenty of other publicly available data that could have also been used as covariates (for example, US Census Bureau data on % college and high school graduates, median incomes, home ownership vs. rental).
Tue, 07/05/2016 - 11:16am
I was poor and studied and ate whatever my mom put in the brown bag. Grades were always good because I would hear about it if they were not and also be punished. Now that was family involvement!
eric edmonds
Sun, 05/17/2015 - 2:43pm
So if it says 627 out of 627,it's dead last? Just 3 years ago our district was rated in the top 3 acording to the news. Different testing methods?
mary t
Wed, 09/02/2015 - 7:27am
You might want to change the colors for the chart titles - the white on light blue is totally unreadable on my computer