Office of K-12 Outreach supports next era in Michigan school reform
In July 2012, the state of Michigan was granted flexibility under the federal Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA), often known as No Child Left Behind. State education leaders say the change moves Michigan schools into a new era of rigor, accountability and performance.
The Michigan State University Office of K–12 Outreach has been identified as one of the state’s key partners in implementing the revised structure. The office, based in the College of Education, was active in writing and developing the state’s flexibility request, and will play a prominent role in strengthening school- and district-level achievement.
“Although K–12 Outreach staff members have been working with Michigan’s Statewide System of Support since 2007, their roles are evolving in new and exciting ways, said Assistant Dean Barbara Markle, who is heading MSU’s effort. “We strongly support the state’s approach and look forward to the possibilities it holds for Michigan learners.”
This summer, the Office of K–12 Outreach has been busy recruiting and training about 100 specialists and facilitators who will be working in Michigan schools starting this fall, helping improve student performance and narrow achievement gaps. These professionals will build upon the effective strategies developed through university research and MSU-led school improvement initiatives such as the Michigan Fellowship of Instructional Leaders and Coaching 101. Moreover, they will support the creation of a new and more robust system of locally-based data diagnosis and dialogue that will lead to new findings about school reform.
Michigan’s new accountability structure
Moving away from past definitions of Adequate Yearly Progress (or AYP), Michigan is now assessing the performance of its schools using a slightly modified “Top-to-Bottom” list. This list ranks schools from top (highest-performing) to bottom (lowest-performing) based on student achievement, improvement and differences in achievement between the highest- and lowest-performing students within a school. Schools are then grouped as follows:
- Priority schools are those in the bottom 5 percent of schools on the Top-to-Bottom list. These schools are required to create and implement reform plans. Additional supports are also provided to turn around their performance including, in the case of Title I-funded schools, the deployment of MSU-trained intervention specialists who will lead data analysis and professional dialogue. These specialists will also work to build and support district officials’ capacity for leading change at the building level.
- Focus schools are identified as the 10 percent of schools with the widest gaps in student achievement between low-performing (lowest 30 percent of students) and high-performing (highest 30 percent of students) within the school. These schools also receive additional support to review their data and implement strategies to address these gaps. For Title I-funded schools, this will mean work with an MSU-trained district improvement facilitator, who will help district officials devise and implement effective strategies for change.
- Reward schools are those that achieve high levels of performance, proficiency or growth, or those that “beat the odds” in comparison to their comparable peers. These are the strongest performing schools in Michigan and, as such, they are eligible for special recognition.
Renewed promise for the future
Through its active partnership with the Michigan Department of Education and the state’s School Reform/Redesign Office, MSU will continue its strong investment in the work of school improvement and change. Markle said this work is critically important to ensure the needs of every Michigan learner are met.
“The state has charted a course toward excellence and equity for all learners,” she said. “We are pleased and honored to serve as a trusted partner. MSU has the expertise and leadership resources necessary to carry out this vital work.”