Morenci's school success acknowledged by state 04.27.2011

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Morenci Area High School is one of more than 130 Michigan schools identified as Beating the Odds.

The Michigan Department of Education released a list of schools last week described as overcoming barriers to reach academic success. The school districts making the list face factors such as low economic status, race and ethnicity.

Morenci Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Osborne said he isn’t familiar with the study and the education department website doesn’t offer clear information about the news. Despite that, he’s pleased to see the district recognized for its achievement.

He assumes that socioeconomic factors are what placed the district on the list. For example, the number of families qualifying for free and reduced school lunches is high compared to other area districts.

Despite the economic challenges facing many families, high school students consistently score at or above the state average on annual testing.

In a press release from the state, Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan said, “These are schools that are doing remarkable things to help their students achieve, despite the odds being stacked against them.”

One study identified schools performing above predicted levels. A second study—the one in which Morenci appeared—identified schools that perform better than a comparison group of school with similar demographics.

“What it really comes down to,” Dr. Osborne said, “is teachers in the classroom. It’s the impact of teachers and families, and the involvement of both.”

High school/middle school principal Stephen Philipp names several factors  that he’s observed as he’s gotten to know the staff in his first year with the district, including:

• The staff identifying academically weak students and encouraging these student to seek additional help, to prevent students from falling behind, getting discouraged, dropping out, etc.

• Parent notification of students performance, good or bad;

• Offering parents an option for improving students performance through the ZAP program and other after-school help.

• Parents holding their student accountable by helping that student make the best decisions to finish work and look beyond high school.

“These are just a few of the many things that add up to student success,” Philipp said. “I believe student success is multi-leveled.”

Teacher and staff involvement in students’ lives; community members involved in students’ lives; student expectations set by staff and community all play a role.

Staff and administrators now need to examine the data, Philipp said, and look closely at areas where the school is showing strengths and weaknesses.

Dr. Flanagan takes that a step further.

“If I were a local superintendent again, I would contact that school beating the odds and find out what they are doing and put those things in place in my schools,” Flanagan said.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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