08/20/2013 06:04 pm ET Updated Oct 20, 2013

What Every Detroit Parent Needs to Know About the Michigan Department of Education's New School Rating System

The Michigan Department of Education today released a new system for reporting on the performance of Michigan schools. The information, found at, reports on two different, non-aligned performance measures.

The first measure is the top to bottom list. The top to bottom list is based on things like MEAP proficiency, improvement on the MEAP, graduation rates, and other things over the course of two years. While important, it is based on less information than Excellent Schools Detroit's Scorecard, and it merely ranks schools against each other. It does not tell you what the rankings mean. Because of that, being in the 99th percentile means that a school is probably one of the best in the state, but doesn't necessarily mean that it measures up nationally.

The second measure released by the MDE is a color-coding of schools. This measures the size of the gap between the highest scoring and lowest scoring students on the MEAP at that school or in that district. When those gaps are really big, a school or district earns a red rating. When the gaps are really smaller, they earn a green rating.

What does it all mean? Bottom line, these are important tools that are primarily designed for schools and policymakers to use. Although they could be simpler and more coherent, as our colleagues at Education Trust-Midwest contend, we should all pay attention to the MDE's reports. However, for parents, the simplest, most comprehensive and rigorous tool they can use is the one designed for them. Excellent Schools Detroit's Scorecard is based on more comprehensive information -- some that the state doesn't even have, includes measures that parents believe are important (like school climate), and is based on a standard that makes an A on our scorecard an A anywhere. We encourage parents to continue to use to find out how Detroit schools stack up.