Focused effort looks to improve learning for struggling students

Hamilton High School received the designation of a “Focus” school this year by the state of department of education.  The label is the result of a gap between Hamilton’s highest and lowest performing students.

“It has absolutely nothing to do with the achievement success of the building,” Hamilton High School Principal Doug Braschler said. “That is something that everybody needs to understand.”

The title of  “focus school” is far more complex than most people would think. The process of grading public schools in Michigan is different than schools in the rest of the country. It traces back to the Bush administration’s “No Child Left Behind” initiative.

The No Child Left Behind Act passed by the U.S. Congress to was meant to help disadvantaged students. It stated that 100% of the students in American public schools must be proficient in science, math, and reading within 12 years of the Act’s passage in 2001.

Like many states, Michigan rejected this as unrealistic and did not adopt the No Child Left Behind Act. Congress said that since they did not adopt this Act, then they would have to come up with an approved plan that would help the disadvantaged students in Michigan. The State of Michigan created the system of “Focus, Priority, and Reward” schools.

The school now has to raise the scores of the lowest scoring students, not lower the scores of the highest scoring students.

Hamilton High School is taking multiple approaches to raising the bottom scores. Some Guided Studies classes have been added to the schedule, along with Friday morning summits. The Friday summits are opportunities for students to assess their grades with their summit teachers, and to keep students informed of their grades to ensure all students are knowledgable at how they are doing. Another thing Hamilton is trying is a “book club”, having all of the teachers read the book Focus to learn different teaching techniques to raise scores.

“We are reading it to see what we can reflect on our teaching methods and see what we can improve upon in the classroom,” said computer teacher Mr. Brian Morrison.

Hamilton is continuing to search for new ways to get the bottom scores up higher, which will hopefully result in Hamilton getting rid of the “focus school” title.



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