Flint, MI—In a recent evaluation, the state has identified the majority of schools in the Flint Community Schools (FCS) district as low-performing and in need of an improvement plan.
Based on evaluations through the Michigan School Index System, which considers student’s academic growth and proficiency among other factors, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) is requiring 10 of the district’s 11 schools to develop plans to improve student outcomes.
Schools identified for CSI have to follow the most rigorous corrective requirements and are eligible for the highest level of state and community support, followed by those under ATS and TSI.
The index flagged nine FCS schools as in need of CSI and one for TSI.
Durant-Tuuri-Mott Elementary School is the only FCS school that was not identified for the three support categories in the 2021 to 2022 academic year.
Among the other 10 schools, seven are covered by a partnership agreement between the district, MDE and the Genesee Intermediate School District (GISD), which will help the district to develop target outcomes and benchmarks for the schools.
MDE officials say that the partnership model focuses on supporting districts with the lowest achieving schools on boosting academic achievement district-wide.
“The intent is to improve district systems using a combination of local and state supports/resources to help districts provide each student with the access and opportunity for a quality education,” Dr. William Pearson, director of MDE’s Office of Partnership Districts, wrote in a statement.
The seven FCS schools under the agreement are Brownell STEM Academy, Eisenhower Elementary School, Freeman Elementary School, Holmes STEM Middle School Academy, Neithercut Elementary School, Pierce Elementary School and Potter Elementary School.
“Flint is going to have more support with academics,” Kevelin Jones, FCS superintendent, told Flint Beat of the partnership. “We’ll have more support financially as it pertains to working on these targeted schools, and our principals will have more support.”
The remaining FCS schools not in the agreement—Accelerated Learning Academy (ALA), Doyle/Ryder Elementary, and Southwestern Classical Academy—are not included due to the type of education offered or not meeting specific criteria to be covered by the agreement.
Nevertheless, Jones wrote in a follow-up statement that the district is focused on “districtwide improvements, impacting scholars at every Flint Community Schools building, as we work with the community to renovate, rebuild and re-energize the district.”
The Michigan School Index System
The Michigan School Index System evaluates schools based on seven components: student growth and proficiency, school quality/student success, graduation rate, English learner progress, test participation as well as English learner test participation.
Here’s a breakdown of each component in the index:
The index was designed to fulfill requirements under the federal government’s Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, which asks states to develop school accountability systems. Accordingly, the Michigan School Index System identifies schools in need of CSI, ATS and TSI.
The seven schools in Flint’s partnership agreement scored in the bottom 5% of all schools in the index, which evaluated a total of 3,367 schools, for the 2021-22 academic year. As such, the state identified them to be in need of CSI.
CSI schools are required to develop a state-approved improvement plan that is informed by the index and includes use of evidence-based interventions. One such intervention framework currently used by FCS involves the “whole child” approach. The method aims to support a range of students’ needs including their academics, behaviors as well as their social and emotional needs.
The types of support for CSI-identified schools also include access to a state education department liaison, additional funding, consultants and support from GISD.
Further, most CSI schools are covered by the state’s partnership agreement with certain exceptions, and schools within the agreement have to follow more accountability measures than CSI schools that are not.
Why some FCS schools didn’t make it into the partnership agreement
The FCS district has a total of 11 schools, with eight elementary schools, a high school, a middle school and an alternative education school. According to Jones, the district is serving roughly 3,000 students in the 2022-23 academic year.
While the three FCS schools not in the partnership agreement were also flagged by the index as in need of support plans, they did not qualify for the agreement for a variety of reasons.
While MDE did identify Flint’s Accelerated Learning Academy as a CSI school, because of its alternative model it is not eligible to be covered by the partnership agreement, according to the state.
The state index also identified the district’s Doyle/Ryder Elementary School for CSI, though it, too, did not qualify for the new partnership agreement.
According to MDE standards, the elementary didn’t qualify as it was previously flagged for ATS and did not exit that category in the 2021-22 school year.
According to the index, Doyle/Ryder failed to exit ATS last year due to the school’s economically disadvantaged students and Black or African American students being ranked at the bottom 5% of all schools for the subgroups.
Those student subgroups were also in the bottom 5% for the 2017-18 school year.
Southwestern Classical Academy, the district’s high school, scored at the bottom 25 percent of all schools for the same subgroups’ applicable index values last school year. MDE therefore identified Southwestern for targeted support and improvement, and TSI schools are not eligible to be covered by the state’s partnership agreement.
Flint Community Schools’ Response
Flint Schools entered a previous partnership agreement in 2018, setting goals that included improvement in student attendance, reduced suspensions and increased math and literacy proficiency. But COVID-19 and changes in the district’s leadership interrupted its progress in achieving these goals, Jones explained.
“MDE is lending a hand, GISD is lending a hand and saying, ‘We’re going to do everything we can to support Flint as you continue to innovate and motivate scholars to be their best,’” Jones said. “We haven’t really had the chance in the last partnership to do that.”
But, Jones did point to the positives happening in the district already, noting students are heading in the right direction with their academics given results from the NWEA Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment.
“We are seeing [academic] growth in our NWEA scores,” Jones said. “It’s not the growth we want to see, but we are seeing that we are moving the needle.”
Though the Michigan School Index System does not include NWEA MAP scores in its evaluation, the percentage of Flint Schools students who met their projected growth for math and reading in the assessment did increase from fall 2020 to fall 2022.
Other district officials have also pointed to various Flint Schools efforts to improve academics.
During an October school board presentation, Diona Clingman, executive director of academics at FCS, said the district is adopting and implementing new curriculum in English Language Arts, social studies, math and science.
The district has also been working on literacy improvement, which officials say remains a major challenge for FCS scholars. Using interventions, individualized literacy plans and new learning platforms are among the ways the district is working to strengthen scholars’ literacy, Clingman told Flint Beat.
As for Jones, the district superintendent said FCS is focused on improving students’ growth in academics and continuing to support the “whole child,” part of the district’s 2022-2027 strategic plan.
Jones said the district expects the new partnership agreement to help FCS sustain its efforts to enhance student outcomes. And, he added, FCS is currently working with MDE and the district’s Board to craft a plan to address student academics.
“Our expectation is that this partnership will help the district set foundational measures in the short-term that the district will utilize for continued improvement once the partnership has concluded,” he wrote in a statement to Flint Beat.
According to MDE, Flint Schools’ new partnership agreement runs from November 2022 to November 2025.