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.