August 5, 2010 at 12:17 pm

DPS meets federal education standards for first time in four years

More state schools pass Adequate Yearly Progress in 2009-10

For the first time in four years, Detroit Public Schools passed federal education standards for public school districts, echoing a statewide increase in the number of schools making the grade.

Detroit Public Schools, the largest school district in the state with 87,000 students, made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) with half of its schools meeting student achievement standards, up markedly from 31 percent the previous year, according to 2009-10 results released Wednesday by the Michigan Department of Education.

While most of Detroit's high schools still didn't made AYP because of lackluster test scores and graduation rates, the district met overall targets on the elementary and middle school level -- enough for the school system to meet the federal benchmark for the first time since 2006.

"This is the start of what can become long-term academic success for Detroit Public Schools," DPS Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb said in a statement. The district is continuing with academic reforms, such as teaching pre-algebra in seventh grade and expanding reading and math instructional time.

"We have increased the rigor throughout our schools as part of our ambitious five-year plan, which has been launched and will be fully executed this fall," Bobb added.

Statewide, an increasing number of Michigan public schools met AYP standards for the third straight year, with the greatest gains occurring at the high schools. About 86 percent, or 3,188 schools statewide, met AYP standards, which are a cornerstone of the federal No Child Left Behind act and measure year-to-year student achievement.

That's up from 80 percent in 2007-08.

Michigan elementary schools continued to have high marks, with about 94 percent of schools statewide meeting federal benchmarks. High schools, which typically have the lowest rates of passage, made significant strides with about 82 percent making the grade compared with 47 percent in 2007-08.

The state's superintendent of public instruction credits the gains, in part, to improving student test scores on the MEAP for elementary and middle school students and on the Michigan Merit Exam for high school juniors, which are significant factors in determining whether schools meet AYP.

"Overall, we are seeing growth in math, reading and writing scores among Michigan students," Mike Flanagan, the state superintendent of public instruction, said in a statement, "and when students show progress, it is reflective of positive changes that teachers and administrators are making in their schools."

Only about 5 percent of districts statewide did not make AYP, including Madison Public Schools in Oakland County and Hazel Park and River Rouge public schools. That means the districts failed to meet standards at three levels: elementary, middle and high school.

To make AYP, a school must test 95 percent of its students and meet marks in English language arts and math or reduce the percentage of students who aren't meeting benchmarks by 10 percent. High schools also must have an 80 percent graduation rate, and elementary and middle schools need 90 percent attendance.

AYP standards will get tougher next year when Michigan will raise the proficiency targets in math and English language arts. Under the No Child Left Behind law, states must raise the bar gradually so 100 percent of students are proficient on state assessments by the 2013-14 school year.

Schools that fail to make AYP for two or more years face sanctions, ranging from having to offer transportation to students who want to transfer to school restructuring.

Last summer, DPS "reconstituted" 36 of its schools not making AYP, meaning more than 2,000 positions were vacated and staffers who previously held them had to re-interview for their jobs with principals.