Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Assistant Professor Sarah Lenhoff quoted in Chalkbeat article "How changes to Michigan’s school ranking system hurt Cass Tech — and helped the DeVos family charter school"

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Chalkbeat, 3/13
How changes to Michigan’s school ranking system hurt Cass Tech — and helped the DeVos family charter school
By Erin Einhorn
Some of Detroit’s most celebrated selective schools saw their standings plunge on the state’s most recent school rankings. Renaissance High School was one of the highest ranked schools on Michigan’s 2014 Top to Bottom schools list, scoring in the 98th percentile. But when the state in January released its latest ranking, based on 2016 test scores, the school had dropped to the 48th percentile. Cass Technical High School dropped 57 percentage points and the Bates Academy, a selective elementary school in northwest Detroit, dropped from the 86th percentile in 2014 to the 34th percentile last year. The nosediving rankings could be alarming to parents and educators, but testing experts say the dramatic swings say more about a rating system that’s been in turmoil in recent years than it does about individual schools. “With stakes that high, it’s important that schools have clear goals to work toward — and right now they don’t,” said Sarah Lenhoff, a Wayne State University education professor who specializes in school improvement and choice. “They’re sending really different and mixed signals, both to schools about what they need to work on to improve and to parents and families about what this ranking means,” Lenhoff said. Lenhoff ran an analysis of the 2014 and 2016 rankings that identified 74 Michigan schools that saw their rankings go up or down by 50 or more points between 2014 and 2016. That includes 31 schools that fell precipitously in the rankings and 43 that leapt from the bottom to the top. More than 500 schools saw a change of at least 25 percentage points — roughly a fifth of the more than 2,500 schools that were ranked in both 2014 and 2016. “You’ve got to wonder,” Lenhoff said. “Did those schools change that drastically or is there something going on where their ranking is not capturing the quality of the school in all dimensions?”