ONAWAY - Bridge Magazine has named Onaway Area Schools as one of 54 Academic State Champs for 2013.
The magazine, a publication of The Center for Michigan, ranked the state's public schools and public charter schools for a third year based on their test scores. These are then adjusted based on student family income within the district, which can serve as a predictor of academic achievement. Districts whose students do better than socioeconomic data would suggest get higher rankings.
That's not to say that only districts with impoverished families do well in Bridge Magazine's rankings. As the magazine points out in its article announcing the 2013 winners, Okemos Public Schools enrolls many children of white collar workers and Michigan State University professors, but still do better than their socioeconomic status would predict. They rank sixth overall.
"From big cities to farming communities, quality education is occurring in every corner of Michigan," John Bebow, Center for Michigan president, said in a release. "Our Academic State Champions series takes a close look at what these schools are doing right, in the hopes that their success can be reproduced throughout the state."
Onaway schools rank 46th statewide, with 65.3 percent of its 675 students qualifying for free or reduced lunch, according to Bridge Magazine's data. The district got a score of 107.88, with anything above 100 showing that students are testing better than expected given their family income levels.
"Our staff has been working hard for the last several years to be a more competitive school and to create stronger learners," district Superintendent Rod Fullerton said. "I think it's just a result of that hard work."
The big winners in the district were its fourth graders, Fullerton said. They ranked second in the state on Bridge Magazine's rankings.
But rather than rest on their laurels, Fullerton and others continue to work to provide more learning opportunities to students, he said. The district is using money from the United States Department of Education's Title I and Title II programs to help struggling students and pay for professional development for teachers.
One example is a new after-school program for middle school students, Fullerton said.
"Teachers stay either until 4:30 or 5 p.m. and basically, students that have an academic need can come in and get help," he said. "They get help with homework or help with concepts they're not getting. It's just additional classroom time."