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Michigan launches new school performance categories


The Michigan Department of Education has unveiled a new system to classify school performance. 

The state's schools will now fall into three categories:  Reward, Priority and Focus.

Reward Schools include the top 5 percent of schools, and those that have made the most academic progress over the previous four years.

Vanessa Keesler is with the Michigan Department of Education. She says being classified a Priority or Focus school means there are some problems.

"Schools that are named Priority Schools and Focus Schools are required to go through a series of steps that include plans and developing interventions," Keesler said.  "And the Priority Schools in  particular receive substantial monitoring from the State Reform Office to ensure rapid turnaround is occurring.

Keesler says a state takeover option could be used for schools that don't turn around after three years.

"Schools and districts are obviously the first line that the state asks to be accountable for the achievement of their students, especially in new ways of finding those kids who are behind and helping to differentiate in instruction,  and move them forward," said Keesler.

She also says responsibility for school performance lies with the Department of Education and with parents.

"If we want to get all of our students to career and college readiness -- which is one of our goals -- then it needs to be a statewide effort," she said.

The classification and academic measurement changes came after Michigan was given flexibility to the federal No Child Left Behind Act.