TEMPERANCE — The Bedford school district has hired an outside contractor to provide tutors for about 250 students in grades three through eight in an effort to improve the youngsters’ assessment-test scores and boost the school system’s ranking on the Michigan Department of Education’s new scorecard.
Tutors will be matched with individual students after regular school hours from Sept. 23 to Oct. 2. The timing is calculated on school officials’ part: Michigan’s assessment testing for those grades starts Oct. 7.
“We’re trying to jump-start them, to get their minds ready for the test,” said Edward Manuszak, the district’s assistant superintendent for instruction and student services.
Bedford school officials find themselves in a predicament under Michigan’s new rating system. All of Bedford’s schools are well above the median (49.5) in Michigan’s percentile rankings. Monroe Road Elementary, for example, is in the 94th percentile statewide, and Douglas Road Elementary is in the 80th percentile. The lowest, the junior high, is in the 70th percentile.
But the district as a whole achieves only a middling rank on the new state scorecard, which uses a color-coded system to rank districts based on improvement from their own baselines.
Bedford ranks in the middle of the color codes — yellow — a rating that would be a C if letter grades were used. The yellow designation means the district attained 60 to 69 percent of the points it could have earned. Sixty-six percent of Michigan’s 897 school districts are rated yellow, according to the MDOE Web site.
For Mr. Manuszak, the new system, called an “Accountability Scorecard,” grossly underrates the Bedford schools.
“Bedford is a high-achieving school district. We are well above the mean in the state of Michigan, at every school level,” he said.
Indeed, the average percentile rank for Bedford’s six schools in 2012-13 is 78, which would put the district in the upper half of the lime designation given to districts that attained 70 to 84 percent of the possible points. No district in the state earned a lime designation. The highest rank is green, while orange and red fall bellow yellow.
Bedford’s ranking is dragged down by two subcategories — “Bottom 30 Percent” and “Students with Disabilities” — that are over-emphasized in the state’s calculations to improve such students’ performance, Mr. Manuszak said. Also negatively affecting the ranking is the district's past high level of performance, which became a baseline from which to measure improvement.
Under the new methodology, he said, districts that consistently underperformed the Bedford schools now could achieve a higher ranking.
“So now we’re being penalized for being a high-achieving district,” Mr. Manuszak said.
While the financially strapped Bedford district already has an operating deficit that leaves no money in its budget for tutors, state grant funding was available.
“I think we’ll use the money wisely, and it will make a difference,” Mr. Manuszak said.