A requirement mandated by the Michigan Department of Education for schools with large gaps in performance does not apparently mean substantial student-shifting for the .
As part of a set of requirements for state-named "Focus Schools," districts have to allow a number of students to move out of any school in that category and into another designated school within the district beginning in the 2012-13 school year.
The requirement only applies to schools that are receiving Title I dollars–a federal program that helps to fund schools with high percentages of students from low-income families.
Only three schools in the entire district — Andover High School, , and — received the "Focus" categorization, .
Of those, only East Hills recieves Title I funds, the data shows. Districts are left to decide how many spots will be open for each school, but must provide transportation for these transferred students to the new school.The district is required to set aside 10 percent of its Title 1 funding for these transportation costs.
Bloomfield Hills Schools Superintendent Rob Glass said he and key administrators were still interpreting the test results, which are completely new. He did say data reflects largely what they already knew internally and won't change how the district operates.
However, some districts with a larger number of schools in the "Focus" category will have to take drastic action. In Dearborn, for instance, the district has to set aside $1 million to cover transportation for students that transfer out of one of the district's Focus schools, Superintendent Brian Whiston told Dearborn Patch.
Five of the six Dearborn schools under "Focus" designation received Title I funds.
According to Vanessa Keesler, the head of Evaluation, Research and Accountability for the Michigan Department of Education, this school-of-choice policy has always been in place for schools that have not achieved AYP status.
But the Focus School designation–applied to 358 schools in 176 districts across the state–is one of three new categories identified by the MDE.
Reward Schools are the top five percent of all Michigan schools and the top five percent making the greatest academic progress; Priority Schools are the lowest achieving schools in the state; Focus Schools are the 10 percent of schools with the widest academic disparity between the top 30 percent of students and the bottom 30 percent.
, , , and were designated "Reward" schools.
Whiston , as they include some schools that are high-achieving, such as Bryant–the district's top-performing middle school.
"I'm frustrated that good school districts are potentially getting a black eye," he said at a press conference on Thursday.
Beyond allowing some students to transfer schools, Focus Schools must utilize an MDE-provided District Toolkit, plus MDE-trained and paid-for District Improvement Facilitators. Both are aimed at closing the achievement gap.
Districts will have one year to self-diagnose and self-prescribe customized changes in their supports to the Focus Schools and their students, according to the MDE. There are escalating supports and consequences for Focus Schools that do not close their achievement gaps.
“We are committed to closing the achievement gaps in all of our schools for all of our students,” state Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan said of Focus Schools. “With this measure of transparency, schools will be identified and held accountable for the achievement of all of their students.”