Education Nation: Struggling Schools

By: Liam Martin Email
By: Liam Martin Email

LANSING -- What is evident in the classrooms and hallways here at Eastern High School is that both teacher and student are eager for change.

And yet, their school is falling behind.

"Eastern High School has not made [Adequate Yearly Progress] in the time that that has been a requirement," says principal Susan Land, in her second year as principal.

That's seven-straight years of sub-AYP marks, as almost 40 percent of the kids here don't graduate -- earning it the dubious distinction of a high-priority Title I school.

"It's not as dire as it might sound, but we definitely have work to do," Land says.

She speaks to an optimism here that comes with a new fight to lift the school back up. With that Title I designation, Eastern gets federal aid through Michigan's Statewide System of Support (or SSOS).

The state brings in coaches and data analysts who can help the school identify its problem areas.

"An example might be a third-grade teacher that's trying to teach fractions, and the kids just aren't getting it," says Mark Coscarella with the Michigan Department of Education. "So they would work with the teacher and say, 'Here's a piece where that instruction can be adjusted to better meet the needs of the students.'"

Tamara Bashore-Berg is one of those coaches. She says lifting Eastern up is about getting back to the basics.

"If we focus on literacy across the curriculum. If we focus on numeracy across the curriculum, we are benefiting every child," she says.

And it's working -- proificieny at Eastern increased some 30 percentage points in reading, 12 in math -- just a year into the new support system.

And officials here say they expect the high school to pass AYP this year.

"Our state assessment shows that those strategies we put in place last year worked, so we're continuing that work this year, and we are going to expanding on the use of those strategies this year," Land says.

But Eastern is just the tip of the iceberg. Some 280 schools across the state didn't make AYP last year -- a scary statistic as the state begins to compete with other countries for jobs.

And yet, those here at Eastern and across the state are hopeful their new plan is working. As for how many failing schools they expect to see 10 years from now?

"I see zero," Coscarella says. "That' my hope. That's all of our goals."


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