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From the Bottom Up: Scores Take a Jump

An increase in testing scores at Kent City High School, and a significant jumpin the state’s Top to

Bottom school ranking, has district leaders cheering.

“In almost every category of the ACT we’ve seen a big jump,” said Bill Crane, principal of the high school and middle school.

The ACT, a readiness assessment college-bound students take, contains sections on reading, math, English and science with a composite score determined by the average of the four. Kent City’s scores have been rising since the 2009-2010 school year, with the average composite score increasing nearly a full point from 18.8 to 19.7. The English score increased from an average of 17.6 in 2009 to 19.1 in 2013. Math is up from 18.7 to 19.4; reading from 19.2 to 19.8; and science from 19.5 to 20.

The school also has the largest percentage of students receiving proficient or advanced scores on the Michigan Merit Exam in reading and math compared to neighboring districts of Cedar Springs, Sparta, Ravenna and Grant, and is above the state average in reading, writing and math, according to data from the Michigan Department of Education.  In science, scores were 25 percent proficient or advanced, which is 1 percent behind the state average of 26 percent. In social studies, scores were 37 percent, 2 percent behind the state average of 39 percent.

Also, 100 percent of the 88 seniors in the Class of 2013 graduated, which is rare to see, according to administrators.High School math teacher Mark Thompson instructs students

Turning Achievement Around

Crane said the increases are significant because in fall of 2010, the high school landed on the Priority Schools list, indicating it was among the lowest achieving 5 percent of schools in the Top to Bottom ranking. The district spent the following two years on significant reform efforts.

“It was a pretty bad black eye for the community when we were on the list, so it’s nice to have something to celebrate,” Crane said. He attributes successes to increased collaboration among the staff, creation of a District Improvement Team, more unity between the high school and middle school, and a better all-around focus. “We’ve done a good job of putting everybody on board with how we are teaching and what our instructional model is,” he said.

The recently released 2012-13 Top To Bottom Rankings help tell the story. Kent City High School ranked in the 88th percentile, placing it near the top of all high schools in Kent County, behind only City High School, East Grand Rapids High School and Forest Hills Eastern High School, said Superintendent Mike Weiler, former Kent ISD superintendent who came out of  retirement in 2011 to take the superintendent role at Kent City.

Rankings are based on several factors, including student test scores, achievement gaps between student groups, and district demographics. Kent City is a rural community reliant on the agricultural industry withabout 60 percent of students district-wide receiving free or reduced-cost lunches.

“For high schools of, or near, our size in this area, Kent City’s ranking was at the top. That is quite a change from our rankings of 2010-11, which placed the high school in the 14th percentile, and is a considerable increase from our percentile ranking last year, which was 61,” Weiler said in a press release.

Kent City Middle School’s ranking in the 75th percentile was about the same as the previous year. Kent City Elementary was in the 63rd percentile, which was down from its 2011-12 ranking.


Top-to-bottom rankings

Kent City Community Schools

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.


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