A state-mandated requirement for schools with large gaps in performance means some Rochester students will be allowed to transfer to a different school within the district — and be bussed there, too.
The requirement applies to many of the new, state-named "Focus Schools," which are schools that have been found to have the biggest disparity between the lowest- and highest-performing students, as ranked by the Michigan Department of Education.
(For more on our report of the Focus Schools and other rankings, read 8 Rochester Schools Named Reward Schools.)
According to information outlined in an MDE report, districts must allow students a choice to move out of any Focus school and into another school — as long as it's not a Focus school — within the district. Schools have until Aug. 21 to notify parents of the option to switch schools; parents will then have two weeks to inform the district of their decisions to transfer. 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 requirement only applies to schools that are receiving Title I dollars (Title 1 is a federal program that helps to fund schools with high percentages of students from low-income families.)
In Rochester, that means the following schools must give the option to students to change schools: Brooklands, McGregor, Hampton and Hamlin elementary schools, and West and Reuther middle schools. If Long Meadow and Baldwin and Hart become eligible for Title 1 funding, this requirement may also apply to those schools.
It's all part of the rankings
The Focus label is a new part of the annual Adequate Yearly Progress rating of Michigan schools.
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. There are two other categories, too: 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.
Here's a look at how Rochester schools were labeled and placed on the top-to-bottom ranking of state schools. Rochester did not have any Priority schools. Schools that are not labeled did not fit into any of the three categories.
Ranking* School Label Title 1 eligible? 99 Delta Kelly Reward No 99 Long Meadow Focus No 99 North Hill Reward Yes 99 University Hills Reward No 99 Van Hoosen Reward No 98 Brewster Reward No 98 Musson Reward No 97 Brooklands Focus Yes 96 Hart Focus No 96 Hugger Reward No 96 Adams Reward No 92 West Focus Yes 89 Meadow Brook 86 McGregor Focus Yes 85 Stoney Creek 84 Reuther Focus Yes 83 Hampton Focus Yes 81 Rochester 72 Hamlin Focus Yes
* The state top-to-bottom school ranking rates the students' proficiency in math, reading, social studies, science and writing.
Source: Michigan Department of Education
More about Focus schools
In Rochester, like in districts across the state, district leaders just learned last week of the requirement that Focus school parents be given the option to switch schools.
According to Irene Larson, the director of assessments, grants and compliance for the Rochester Schools, administrators will meet later this week to develop specifics for the school transfer policy. They are expected to receive more direction after a state Department of Education presentation this week.
It is not known whether schools will be allotted a certain number of spots for transfers or how the transportation would work. In , leaders have said that if too many students want to transfer, only the lowest-performing students in those schools will be moved.
Patch will bring an updated report on how the transfers will work in Rochester following school leaders' meetings this week.
Why the labels?
The Focus School designation applies to 358 schools in 176 districts across the state. We have attached a nine-page outline of Focus schools to this story; you can also view the document and more resources here.
Focus schools will also be assigned a District Improvement Facilitator, paid for and trained by the state.
According to MDE leaders, the Focus school label represents the urgency of the state's commitment to make visible these students (even in relatively high-performing schools) whose needs are not being fully met, and to hold districts accountable for finding ways to help them succeed.
“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.