Jackson County schools underperform in new study

Every standard public high school in Michigan is evaluated and graded in the "Michigan Public High School Context and Performance Report Card" just published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

The CAP Report Card examines public high school performance while taking into account family income, producing an "apples-to-apples" comparison for parents and policymakers.

"Education research consistently shows that socioeconomic factors have a significant impact on standardized test results," said Michael Van Beek, the Center's director of education policy and a coauthor of the report card. "This is the first-of-its-kind attempt in Michigan to take this reality into account, and it helps us identify outstanding schools that by most measures would appear mediocre."

Four years' worth of Michigan Merit Exam and ACT test scores were adjusted based on the percentage of students in a high school who qualified for a free or reduced-price lunch. A high school's "CAP Score" indicates how far above or below projections a high school performed given its student population's socioeconomic status, with 100 set as the standard.

The 12 public high schools in Jackson County did not fare well compared to the rest of the state. The average CAP score was just 97.7, meaning these high schools underperformed given their student populations' socioeconomic levels.

Only four of the 12 schools in the county exceeded the state standard score of 100: Columbia Central (103.2), Jackson (103), Western (102.3) and Springport (102.2). No school in the county received higher than a C grade. With a CAP Score of 89.7, Grass Lake High School received the county's only F.

"The CAP Report Card has useful information for everyone," said Van Beek. "It will enable parents to make informed school choice decisions, provide school officials with a better assessment of their school's performance, and help policymakers identify high-performing schools and practices in an area that makes up the largest single state expenditure."

Jonathan Mills and Daniel Bowen of the University of Arkansas coauthored the study with Van Beek. The full report card is available online at www.mackinac.org/CAP.

Published: Mon, Jul 30, 2012

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