Hartland's Academic Report Card
Should Hartland Schools receive A's and B's or D's and F's
Many recent news articles report declining tests scores due to government school shutdowns. These articles conclude that COVID-related school shutdowns have had a significant negative impact upon student achievement as measured by test scores. Many have concluded that the shutdowns and quarantines are the root cause of declining test scores.
Like many Michigan school districts, after the lockdowns were over Hartland Consolidated Schools (HCS) imposed quarantines and exclusions during the COVID pandemic. Quarantines and exclusions barred thousands of students from attending school, thus preventing them from receiving a full education. According to the Livingston County Health Department, 96% of quarantined/excluded students were not COVID-positive. The practice of preventing healthy students from attending classes will be remembered as one of the worst public policy decisions in the history of Livingston County schools.
“The practice of preventing healthy students from attending classes will be remembered as one of the worst public policy decisions in the history of Livingston County schools.”
Yes, HCS Academic Performance has Declined
A review of HCS test scores showed that 2020-2021 test scores declined compared to the pre-COVID test scores of 2018-2019. On average 14.99% fewer HCS students tested proficient during this period. This decline varied by school building. Not one HCS school showed an improvement in test scores since COVID. Hartland Village Elementary School experienced the largest decline (35.13%) while Hartland Round Elementary School experienced the smallest decline (6.26%).
At a district level average decline of 14.99%, the overall decline in proficient students observed in HCS was worse than the statewide average decline of 12.98%
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Michigan’s Deceptive School Grading Scale
The State of Michigan assigns grades to individual schools as a measure of academic performance. Michigan’s grading scale ranges from A through F, just like many of us received when we were in school. However, this State grading scale doesn’t represent the standards with which we are familiar, as this table shows.
Michigan’s non-traditional grading scale deceives a casual observer. One must look beyond the assigned letter grade to understand how well a school is performing. Why? The assigned letter grades are not what is typically used. Following the state standard, the letter grade of “A” is assigned if greater than 55% of students meet the required proficiency. The grade of “B” is assigned if between 40 to 54.99% of students meet the required proficiency. But under a traditional letter grade standard such low proficiency would be considered failing.
How do HCS schools fare under Michigan’s standards? Of the seven traditional HCS schools, five received a letter grade of “A” and two received a letter grade of “B”. Normally one would be happy with five A’s and two B’s, but not in this case. In the case of HCS schools these percentages ranged from 41.09% to 63.57%. If the traditional letter grading scale were used, five schools would receive an “F” and two schools would receive a “D”, not A’s and B’s.
Here is a full listing of the letter grades assigned for the academic performance of each HCS school. Academic performance is defined as the percent of students meeting the required academic proficiency.
HCS Academic Performance Compared to Other Schools
The academic proficiency of each Hartland school was compared to 30 other schools in Michigan that are considered a peer group. The state determined which schools were in each peer group. Each of these 30 schools are considered to be similar to one another and similar to the specific Hartland school. Thus, a citizen can compare the performance of the Hartland school to 30 other similar schools in Michigan.
Using this peer group comparison and state standards, HCS had two “C’s”, four “D’s”, and one “F”. There is not an overall peer comparison letter grade published for HCS as a whole, however, it is reasonable to conclude, given these scores, this grade should be a “D” or “D+”.
Here is each HCS school and its rank within its peer group. A ranking of 1 means the HCS school had the highest proficiency in its peer group. Please note that each peer group actually consists of 31 schools – the 30 comparable schools plus the one HCS school.
In sum, the peer group ranking along with the peer group letter grade shows academic performance of HCS schools is below most comparable schools. Indeed, one HCS school placed next to last, Hartland Village Elementary. And four other HCS schools placed in the bottom half of their peer group. In comparison to proficiency letter grades, peer group ranking and peer group letter grades provide a more comprehensive measure of academic performance.
Each HCS school would need to significantly increase its percentage of proficient students in order to attain a top 10% ranking within its peer group. The following table quantifies the amount of needed improvement.
It may take years for students in HCS schools to reach proficiency levels that would rank Hartland schools near the top of their peer groups.
Michigan’s deceptive rating scale for student proficiency enables Michigan school districts to market to their parents and community a level of academic success that students have not achieved. Indeed, the state’s rating scale encourages school districts to misrepresent student achievement. Under the state’s rating scale HCS can claim all of its schools achieve a high level of academic performance when they do not. One could argue that Michigan’s rating scale for measuring student academic proficiency constitutes a fraud on the public.
“Michigan’s rating scale for measuring student academic proficiency constitutes a fraud on the public.”
Michigan’s misleading rating scale is equivalent to classroom grade inflation. Would parents be satisfied with the academic performance of their straight “A” student once they learn that a score of 55% qualifies as an “A” grade? Or, would parents be satisfied with their child’s “B” in algebra once they learn that a score of 40% qualifies as a “B”? Clearly the answer to both questions is no!
Parents and community members should not be satisfied when a school boasts of having an “A” grade for student proficiency as this grade could have been achieved with just 55% of students meeting proficiency requirements.
Fortunately for HCS parents and community members, better measures of academic performance are available. Measures such as peer group letter grade, and % of students achieving academic proficiency are available to the public. These measures provide the community with greater insight regarding the academic performance of their schools. To better assess their schools’ performance, citizens are encouraged to look beyond the state’s proficiency letter grade.
An examination of peer group data and % of students achieving academic proficiency shows that academic performance of HCS schools falls well short of its peers. It is long past time for concerned parents and community members in the HCS district to implement a course correction. November 8th provides just the opportunity to do this.
(Note: All data is publicly available at https://www.mischooldata.org/school-grades/)
Wes Nakagiri serves the citizens of Hartland and Tyrone townships as County Commissioner. He also serves as the leader of Livingston County government as the Chairman of the Livingston County Board of Commissioners. Due to redistricting, he is running for re-election to serve the citizens of Hartland Township and those citizens of Oceola Township who live east of Latson Road. Click here to support his re-election campaign.
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