Schools to Watch

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The Ed Trust-Midwest identified these “Schools to Watch” as places that others can learn from.  These are schools that share an intense focus on student learning.  They use data to assess their impact on students; develop cultures of high expectations for all students; and put a strong emphasis on teacher quality, instruction, and curriculum.

1. Michener Elementary School, Adrian

A combination of high expectations and support is found at Michener Elementary School in Adrian. 

Michener is a shining spot in its community, where unemployment has risen in recent years as cabinet factories and auto plants have shut down or downsized dramatically.  82 percent of Michener’s students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and over a third are Latino.

The school uses data, intensive teacher collaboration, a strong focus on literacy, and intervention, and improvement has been impressive.  For example, the percentage of third-graders meeting state math standards has risen from 83 percent in 2007 to 95 percent in 2009.   In reading, 91 percent of the school’s lower income third-graders meet state standards, compared to 84 percent of lower income third-grade students statewide.

Principal Deb Risner says the school culture is founded on the belief that all students can –learn—and the staff will do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Learn more: Michener Elementary School statistics.


2.   Michigan Technical Academy-Middle School, Redford Township

Progress is the name of the game at Michigan Tech, as its students fondly call their school. “We believe there is no status quo,” says Principal James Abercrombie. “Every year you are moving forward or moving backward.”  Abercrombie says the school’s goal is for each child to “make a year’s worth of growth every year,” even if a child starts off far below grade level.

Michigan Technical Academy-Middle School is a charter school located in Redford Township on the outskirts of Detroit.  The Title 1 school’s student body is 100 percent African-American, and 88 percent of its children are eligible for free or reduced lunch.

In reading, the school’s students perform above the state average for African Americans and economically disadvantaged students.  In 2009, 91 percent of Michigan Tech’s lower income eighth-graders met state standards in reading, compared to 75 percent of lower income eighth-graders statewide.

Although the school still has much progress to make in math and science, proficiency rates in these subjects have risen rapidly over the past few years. Among African-American seventh-graders, for example, math proficiency rates have risen from 49 percent in 2007 to 83 percent in 2009.  Science proficiency rates for African-American eighth-graders have increased from 64 percent to 72 percent.

Abercrombie says that “failure is not an option.” His struggling students attend two classes a day in their weakest subject area.  Data, regular assessments, and intensive math and reading training also help the staff to improve learning.  Such teaching differentiation requires buy-in from educators.  Abercrombie does two to three classroom walk-throughs a day, after which he and teachers debrief.

“I am very proud of my teachers,” says Abercrombie, who credits them with the success of students at Michigan Tech.

Learn more: Michigan Technical Academy statistics.