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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name



Educational Leadership and Policy

First Advisor

Ben Pogodzinski


The goal of this research is to examine the official yearly document, created by the State of Michigan, to officially rank all public schools from best to worst in our state, and offers an alternative way of evaluating these schools. For several years, between 2010 and 2016 the Michigan Department of Education had created a Top-to-Bottom ranking (TTB) of all publicly funded schools in our state. For all these years, it had been presented as a fair and reliable reflection of individual school quality in Michigan. It was primarily based on student achievement and achievement growth. This ranking did not fully consider the type of student population being served in the schools of our state. As our student population is not randomly spread across schools in Michigan, schools do not have a similar population to serve. Some schools serve a population where poverty is not an issue, some serve a student population where all students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Other serve a population somewhere in between.

In 2017 DeGrow, from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, led a study of the M-STEP 2016 results and showed that including a poverty variable in a methodology based on academic growth questioned the Top-to-Bottom ranking by MDE. This study uses the DeGrow methodology and includes additional variables to reflect the student variations in our schools. The study uses 4th grade ELA SGP. The variables include the percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch, the size of the building, the proportion of students receiving ELL and/or Special Ed support, and the student rate of mobility. Based on the M-STEP results of 2016, this methodology shows different results from the ones of the 2016 Top-to-Bottom (TTB) ranking, and the ones from DeGrow. Some schools labeled “Priority Schools” by MDE in early 2017 performed better than their expected growth, while schools praised by the TTB ranking lagged. The use of the three methodologies and their very different results questions the validity of such methodologies. The study concludes that all current methodologies, based primarily on student growth or student achievement, and ignoring the variations in students, teachers and school building characteristics, fall short from their evaluative mission. Policy changes are suggested.

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