A new 0-100 state scoring system appears to be a fairer measure of how schools are doing, but most of Detroit’s schools still ended up at the bottom of the list.

Unlike the old, statewide top-to-bottom list, which ranked schools based largely on the percentage of students who were able to pass annual state exams, this system measures schools on an index from 0-100 points based on seven weighted categories, with the heaviest weight given to growth.

It’s part of the Michigan Department of Education’s Parent Dashboard. The index was pitched as a more nuanced take on school scoring — a middle ground between giving schools a singular A-F grade and not scoring them at all.

The highest-rated high school in Detroit was Renaissance High School, with a 87.6. Cass Technical High School was close behind with a 81.17, and Detroit Edison Public School Academy – High School, a charter school near Detroit’s Eastern Market, was third with 66.08.

The highest-rated elementary and middle schools in Detroit were two charter schools — the Detroit Edison Public School Academy (DEPSA) with a 92.16 and Martin Luther King Jr. Education Center Academy with a 91.34. A selective district school, Bates Academy, came in third at 81.89.

The new system does not rank schools — some schools can receive the same scores. But DEPSA, Martin Luther King Education Center Academy and Renaissance were the only three schools in Detroit that were among the top quarter of Michigan schools.

The state said schools with an index score below 30.64 are identified as problem schools. About 15 percent of Detroit charters scored below that, while about half of Detroit district schools scored that low. Roughly 7 percent of charters scored above a 70 on the index, while about 5 percent of district schools did.

The vast majority of Detroit schools — both district and charters — scored poorly compared to schools statewide.

The weighted scores were divided into categories: 34 percent based on growth, 29 percent on academic proficiency, 14 percent on what schools offer and how well they are run, 10 percent on graduation rates, 10 percent on the performance of English Language Learners, and 3 percent based on how many students are tested.

The category that carries the most weight, growth, has been called a fairer approach to school scoring.

There are multiple ways to use test scores to measure a school. While the top-to-bottom list was based almost exclusively on proficiency — the percentage of students who demonstrated on tests that they are performing at grade level in reading and math — the new system gives significant weight to growth. Growth measures students’ improvement or decline on tests from one year to the next.

This matters more in lower-achieving districts like Detroit because children might start school farther behind, without having learned their numbers or the alphabet, says Sarah Lenhoff, a Wayne State University education researcher.

“Growth over time, and how much students are learning over the course of a year, it’s a more accurate indicator of school quality than just looking at straight achievement levels,” Lenhoff said.

“What you want to see is schools serving kids coming to schools behind, that they’re growing at a higher rate to catch them up,” she said.  

The new index was created to comply with new federal law in the Every Student Succeeds Act, which pushed states to create new school accountability plans.

The Michigan Department of Education “spent a lot of time collaborating with external stakeholders and getting feedback on student equity in developing this new system,” a state spokesman said.  

The index has a search bar to find specific schools and a colorful page with seven categories to quickly and easily find scores; however, there is no easy way to compare categories in different schools.

The top ten Detroit schools according to the new index:

  • Detroit Edison Public School Academy, charter, (elementary school) 92.16
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Education Center Academy, charter, 91.34
  • Renaissance High School, district, 87.6
  • Bates Academy, district, 81.89
  • Cass Technical High School, district, 81.17
  • Cesar Chavez Academy Elementary East, charter, 77.78
  • New Paradigm College Prep, charter, 75.41
  • Hope of Detroit Academy Elementary, charter, 74.41
  • Charles Wright School, district, 73.38
  • Bridge Academy West, charter, 70.92

Search through our table to compare different index scores for all schools in Michigan.