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Focus and Attention Can Deliver Results

By Mark Eitrem
Mid-Michigan Leadership Academy      

   Now that the scores from the most recent Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) have been released to the public, uninformed pundits of all types will be comparing one school to another, and one district to another with the hope and expectation that their school/district has outperformed another.  Nobody should be surprised when grades are compared against each other.  And nobody should be surprised when the uninformed begin making assertions or judgments about the quality of a particular school, administration, or group of teachers based on that same set of published data.  Unfortunately, these types of comments are normally wrong for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which are unfair and unequal comparisons between different types of schools, different funding mechanisms, different student demographics, different student turnover rates, and even different groups of students. 

     Care should be taken any time somebody wants to compare groups of students against each other, especially when demographics, socio-economic conditions, and school funding mechanisms have all proven to be valid factors in affecting academic success.  One might be tempted to compare two schools or two student populations in the same grades in the same neighborhood.  This might be useful if the data were available to focus on the growth of returning students.  After all, it is not fair to draw conclusions from the published results when a significant percentage of students tested are new to the school or the district.  Even though their scores are included in the published results, their scores should not be used to infer anything about the school or the district.   Quite clearly, the published MEAP scores from a public school with a high student turnover rate should not be compared to one with a relatively stable student population.  So, if comparisons are necessary, for whatever reason, care should be taken to ensure all of the data is available.    

At the Mid-Michigan Leadership Academy, a small CMU-chartered public school academy located on the campus of the former Michigan School for the Blind, just north of downtown Lansing, we spend a significant amount of time tracking our students’ performances on a wide range of authentic assessments.  With the MEAP, we routinely examine and compare the performance of our returning students (students that took the MEAP with us during the previous year) to the local district and state averages.  These examinations more accurately reflect the comparative ability of our students to compete with their peers, both locally and statewide.  Since we don’t have the capability to screen out the new students in the local and state data, we are left with little choice but to use the published data until more accurate information becomes available.  We also fully recognize that the larger the entity being studied, the less significant the transient population affects the overall scores.   

So, as we evaluate this year’s results we find that our returning students outperformed the local district at the middle school grades (6th – 8th) in every subject.  The returning eighth grade students outperformed the state in every subject.  At the elementary level (3rd – 5th), our returning students exceeded the local district in mathematics in 3rd and 4th grades with the 3rd grade students receiving a 100% score.  In all fairness, our elementary students continue to struggle with writing, but our improvements in the individual scores indicates we are just one test away from being very competitive in English Language Arts at that level.  As a matter of fact, Central Michigan University has analyzed our growth data and has determined that the Mid-Michigan Leadership Academy has exceeded the average growth rate in mathematics and English Language Arts for all of the charter schools they authorize.    

By most measures, our academic progress can be described as remarkable.  This is true with a very diverse student body of which 93% are eligible for free or reduced lunch.  We can make the point that small class sizes with dedicated individual attention and focus can overcome any of the excuses our brethren in the education community might make to justify their poor performance.  Every child can learn!  It’s that simple.  Our staff and faculty have been willing to demonstrate an uncommon level of personal sacrifice and that effort has delivered results.  Our primary mission to improve student academic achievement is clear and unambiguous.  When students and parents understand that premise, academic success is a natural byproduct.  While we have a further distance to go in our pursuit of 100% academic success for every student, these types of results go a long way to revalidating the means and methods that brought us to this point.  Please help me thank the students, the parents, the faculty and the staff for their ongoing efforts.

This letter is response to “The As I See It” column by Joseph Harris entitled “An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton” printed in the March 30, 2008 – April 12, 2008 edition. 

Thank you Joseph Harris for your succinct evaluation of the Clintons which mirrors my opinion, "that the Clintons would do anything to get into office" and clearly Mr. Harris’ open letter was written prior to Mrs. Clinton’s newest, most frequent lie regarding ducking enemy bullets. The only thing I can thank Hillary about is that now I can complete understanding the depth of the people’s infuriation when they talk about George Bush; I felt that same deep, almost irrational, view about the Clintons. On the other hand in all my 42 years… (of voting), I have never been as impressibly captioned by anyone running for president as Barack Obama. Anyone who questions his heart as intentions should read “Dreams For My Father”, before he ran for any office.

Suzanne Elms-Barkley   


Dear TNCP,

I was thrilled when I saw my work I your newspaper and I want to thank you very much for that. Im proud if what you’re doing and know that you’ll have a lot of success. Your paper is a great vehicle for aspiring writers. Keep up the good work.

Ruby Richardson
Central Islip, NY