ESCANABA - Escanaba Area Public High School has been named one of 286 Reward Schools in the state of Michigan. The distinction was recently announced by the Michigan Department of Education.
According to an MDE press release, Reward Schools include the top 5 percent of schools on the annual Top-to-Bottom rankings of all Michigan schools, the top 5 percent of schools making the greatest academic progress over the previous four years, or by being a school identified as "Beating the Odds."
The Reward School distinction is one of three new school designations as a result of Michigan receiving flexibility to the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act from the U.S. Department of Education, according to the press release.
Escanaba Area Public High School is one of seven U.P. schools that received the distinction for making great academic progress. The other Reward Schools include: Brimley Junior/Senior High School, Ironwood's Sleight Elementary School, Calumet High School, Stephenson Middle School, Superior Central School, and West Iron County High School.
"We're the one local school that got recognized because our state testing scores have improved so much over the last four school years," explained Escanaba High School Principal Doug Leisenring.
One benefit for Reward Schools includes having their practices highlighted by presenting at conferences and other events. The MDE is also looking for other potential benefits for Reward Schools such as increased flexibility in use of federal grant funds, corporate and philanthropic support, and networking meetings for school leaders and educators, according to the MDE.
"The staff's really excited," said Leisenring. "We've worked hard over the last three years to improve our scores. We realize that we need to get a little more cohesive ... and now we've got to the point where all the teachers are collaborating. They're talking a lot about what the important things are that need to be covered in instruction and we're very cohesive now. There's a lot of common assessments that we're using and a lot of common good practices that we've identified. We've had a three-year run now of really good scores, and we're really proud of that."
Additionally, Escanaba Area Public High School ranked in the 75th percentile in the state's Top-to-Bottom List. Their ranking is the second-best in the Delta-Schoolcraft ISD, as Gladstone's Cameron Elementary School ranked in the 90th percentile.
Escanaba Superintendent Michele Lemire said the state has provided an electronic tool for the district to review the MDE's calculations, but that she suspects the school showed "great improvement" toward student achievement.
"The high school's performance is due to staff efforts at the high school, but also is due to efforts made at the middle school and elementary schools," said Lemire. "Interventions and more attention to strategies are making the difference."
Lemire added the district will study the data associated with their rankings and consider that information, as well as other school improvement data, when working through plans and instructional strategies for this school year.
Schools listed in the bottom 5 percent of the Top-to-Bottom list or any high school with a graduation rate of less than 60 percent for three consecutive years are designated Priority Schools.
According to the MDE, Priority Schools are placed under the authority of the State School Reform Office. These schools are then required to implement an intervention model to improve their student achievement. This year's rankings have identified 146 Priority Schools, including one local school - Nah Tah Wahsh Public School Academy, which ranked in the 1 percentile range.
In addition, 358 Focus Schools, or the 10 percent of schools with the widest achievement gaps, were identified.
For more information visit www.michigan.gov/mde.