November 28, 2014

Arenac Eastern earns state, Mackinac Center honors

9/3/13

TWINING — The Arenac Eastern Elementary School was named a Reward School by the state of Michigan for the 2012-2013 school year. The recognition highlights the student achievement the district has seen up through fifth grade.

The elementary grades — kindergarten through fifth grade — were also designated as “Beating the Odds,” Superintendent Darren Kroczaleski said.

“Those were schools that overcame traditional barriers to student achievement — socioeconomic reasons or other risk factors,” Kroczaleski said. “Even though they still have these risk factors, they still perform better than other schools of similar size and standing.”

He said Reward Schools have seen “excellent student achievement” and marked improvement in test scores.

Additionally, the AE middle and high schools ranked in the top 5 percent of Michigan rural school districts in the Context and Performance, or CAP, school assessment released by the free-market think-tank Mackinac Center in August, Kroczaleski said.

According to the Mackinac Center’s website, the assessment considers standardized test score data from the Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests, ACT college preparation test, and the Michigan Merit Exam. It then adjusts for school demographics and the poverty level of an area using the number of students qualifying for free and reduced-price lunches, weighting the number that qualifies for free lunches to a greater degree.

“They gave us a letter grade of ‘A,’ and our percent rank was 94.96 percent,” he said. “It’s quite an honor.”

The school’s score ranks it 119th in the state. The AE elementary school also received a CAP grade of A and ranked in the top 10 percent of schools in the state, with a percentage rank of 91.5 percent.

Kroczaleski attributed the school’s academics to the hardworking staff, which he said puts in extra hours helping students and working with them on concepts they may be having trouble with.

“I mentioned it to the board at their meeting (Aug. 26),” he said. “The board was very pleased, and stated that it showed the hard work and the good school system AE has. The quality of education that our teachers are providing, it’s showing up, and the evidence is there.”

The Reward School designation has its roots in the state and its response to the No Child Left Behind Act. The Obama administration has allowed states to get waivers for some of the law’s mandates if they implement their own plans to raise standards and improve the effectiveness of faculty.

Michigan received a waiver last year, and recognizing schools based on their performance was a part of its plan. The other two designations the state is giving out are priority schools — the lowest performing schools in the state — and focus schools, which are schools that are otherwise high achieving, save for some low-achieving students.

The Au Gres-Sims Elementary School is the only other school in Arenac County which earned the Reward School designation for the 2012-2013 school year.

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