Four years ago, Kenwood Elementary, a historically economically disadvantaged school in Cadillac, MI was ranked in the second percentile of all state schools by the Michigan Department of Education. Two years later, the school rose to the 59th percentile. In its April 26 article, “Once at rock bottom, this Northern Michigan elementary now produces stars,” Bridge Magazine reports on Michigan’s student achievement rankings compared to their peers in other states.
Michigan remains in the bottom third nationally in overall student achievement and is “doing worse,” Brian Jacob notes, “I don’t think anyone knows exactly what the reason is, and that’s partly because there are lots of reasons.” The article refers to Jacob’s Brookings’ report that analyzes the success of state- and district-led education reform efforts and makes policy suggestions to the U.S. Department of Education. As Jacob identifies, “there are massive disparities across states in terms of current student performance, and these differences are not merely a factor of the social and economic conditions in the state. All states have been actively engaged in efforts to turnaround failing schools, but the effectiveness of such efforts has varied dramatically across jurisdictions.”
With Kenwood Elementary being Cadillac's highest-poverty school, students were expected to have low literacy rates. However, their “reading all-stars [met] Michigan’s fourth-grade reading standards at double the rate of poor students elsewhere in the state." As Bridge Magazine suggests, “Kenwood’s success shows that Michigan schools can improve learning, and can do it without a huge infusion of cash.”