January 11, 2013

SABIS charter, International Academy of Flint, among state's best academic performers, new Report says

FLINT, MI -- At International Academy, news that the school landed on more top ten lists comes as little surprise to the people who work there and send their kids there.

International Academy gets State Recognition The International Academy in Flint continues to receive state recognition for doing well in academics. The school believes that its success is due to their teaching methods including a testing center where the students are tested on a weekly basis. They also have a policy where no student will graduate from the school until they have been accepted by a college.
The school for years has been among the highest-performing public schools in the state. In a recent analysis from Bridge Magazine and Public Sector Consultants, the school landed on three top ten lists. Bridge Magazine and Public Sector Consultants created a ranking system measuring a school’s test scores adjusted for student family income, which is often a predictor of academic achievement. 

According to the data, International Academy was No. 6 in top value-added large city schools, No. 5 in top value-added charter schools and No. 7 in top value-added low-income schools.

The K-12 school landed as the top charter in the county on the Michigan Department of Education's top-to-bottom list last year, which ranks all schools in the state based on student proficiency, school achievement, academic growth and the socioeconomic gap in five subject areas plus high school graduation rates. The school has also been on the state's list of schools "beating the odds," by outperforming schools with similar risk factors and demographic composition."


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In the Bridge Magazine analysis, the school had the largest value-added matrix (VAM) in Genesee County. Bridge used the VAM to determine its 2012 Academic State Champs. Bridge Magazine is celebrating schools that are finding ways to push learning through the socioeconomic ceiling.

International Academy had a VAM score of 111. A school scoring as expected for the income of its families would score 100. The next highest VAM in the county was the Davison School District at 109 and the lowest is Westwood Heights at 86.

"We create much of our own curriculum," said International Academy spokesman Art Wenzlaff. "The stuff that we do create we can change immediately if need be. Just change it."

The K-12 school also does rigorous testing. Students regularly visit an exam room to take computerized assessments. Teachers and administrators use the data to home in on what needs more focus and what's working well.

These weekly tests are a mandatory part of the curriculum in each grade, Wenzlaff said.

Another secret to the high scores at International is it's placement policy. While charters can't turn students away for poor academic performance, they can place them in a different grade level. All new students at International Academy take assessment tests before they are placed in a class. Students are then put in the grade they test into. This means only students testing at a fourth-grade level are taking the fourth-grade state tests.

The school also has three academic quality controllers, which are like principals but only focused on academics. When administrators have discipline to manage along with academics, sometimes schoolwork takes a back seat, said Wenzlaff.

Blake Thorne covers K-12 schools and higher education for The Flint Journal. Contact him at bthorne1@mlive.com or 810-347-8194. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.


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