Parents moving to Detroit will certainly search for a home on one or more of the popular real estate search portals, such as Zillow or Redfin, and discover the public schools assigned to each home, along with a school rating. The ratings are provided by a third party: GreatSchools.org. Parents want to know: what are the best elementary schools in Metro Detroit?
In this article, we identify several high-quality elementary schools that parent’s might overlook if they rely on GreatSchools ratings. We’ve created our own ratings that identify Out-Perfomers. Out-Performers are schools that have low ratings on GreatSchools, but very high ratings on our rating system.
See our ratings for all schools in Metro Detroit.
See our ratings for all schools in Michigan.
GreatSchools.org School Ratings
Realtors report that the ratings displayed on the major real estate search portals influence parents. Most parents want a 7 rating or better (particularly when moving to a new city), or they’ll pass over the school and the homes and neighborhood the school serves.
But is the rating a good measure of school quality?
The short answer: no.
Test scores and the “achievement gap” significantly influence GreatSchools ratings. For elementary schools, the ratings are about 30% based on test scores, 40% on the “equity score”, and 30% on a growth score.
30% of the rating is a comparison of the school’s average test score with the state average test score.
40% of the rating is the equity score. The equity score compares test scores between economically disadvantaged kids and kids who are not (aka the “achievement gap”). A big gap downgrades the school under the theory that the school isn’t doing enough to support disadvantaged kids.
So is this a good rating system? On the surface, it might seem reasonable, but when you dig down, it turns out this system is seriously flawed.
America’s Biased Rating System
The reason it’s flawed is it doesn’t take into account the largest influencer of test scores: socio-economic status. That’s right, research has proven that parent education/income has the largest influence on a child’s standardized test performance. Not the quality of the school.
So why is this?
Let’s look at the extremes. Consider the experience of a child at home from ages 0 to 5 in a wealthy family vs a family experiencing poverty.
The child in the wealthy family gets read to every night, has more books, hears more words, gets educational games, flashcards, daycares and preschools that actually have a curriculum, is more likely to have one parent at home full time, trips to museums, and the list goes on. A family experiencing poverty might be focused on basic needs like food, water and shelter. As a result, this child is generally not getting the same educational experience at a crucial time when the brain is wiring itself.
In addition to a 5 year head start, the wealthy family’s access to tutors, test prep, summer educational programs and other resources makes the contrast even more stark.
The point of the comparison is this: comparing test scores to the state average is akin to measuring parent income at a school (this has nothing to do with school quality), and an achievement gap is not necessarily the school’s fault.
In fact, by downgrading schools that have achievement gaps, today’s rating system downgrades many schools that have socio-economic and cultural diversity. Some people happen to think these are desirable traits in a school. We certainly do.
The Ratings Mislead Parents
Today’s ratings are misleading parents, because they don’t communicate what parents think they are communicating. The ratings say more about parent income than how good the school is at educating children. The powerful connection between test scores and parent income is brushed aside as if it doesn’t exist.
As a result, parents get steered away from schools where parents have diverse or moderate to low incomes. And they get steered towards schools where parents have high incomes.
Parents today seek homes they can afford in schools that have high GreatSchools ratings. In the process, many families end up with longer commutes; sacrificing both their time and exposure to diversity for their kids all in the name of finding the “best” schools. But the fact of the matter is, often there are better schools closer to work that offer parents more time with their children, the benefits of diversity, and affordability. The problem is those schools are obscured under today’s ratings system.
Our More Equitable Rating System
That’s why we created a rating system, rooted in data science, that more fairly and truthfully evaluates how each school is impacting student performance while controlling for socio-economic factors.
Our algorithm is a multi-variable non-linear regression model. Our model predicts the average test score for schools with similar demographics. Schools are then rated by how their actual score compares to the average. In this way, our ratings tell more truth about how each school is impacting student performance while controlling for socio-economic differences between schools. You can read more about our rating system at this link.
But, to be clear, we actually don’t think test scores are a great way to rate schools. Test scores are one small factor in the complex ecosystem of a school. Test scores cannot possibly capture all the people, programs, and culture that go into the school experience. However, IF you are going to evaluate test scores, then the context of parent income has be considered. Otherwise, you are comparing the size of parent wallets, not how the school is impacting student performance.
Would you like to see the real estate search portals start sharing more balanced information about our nation’s public schools? You can share our facebook post or tweet this:
Please consider displaying school ratings that tell more truth about our awesome Metro Detroit public schools. @zillow @redfin @realtordotcom @homesnapTweet
So, without further ado, we are pleased to recognize 10 of the best Out-Performing Elementary Schools in Metro Detroit. Parents, don’t overlook these schools!
Note: when we reference a school’s score, we are referring to the % of kids that took the test and were deemed proficient on the Reading/Language Arts section of the standardized test for the 2018-19 school year.
1. Francois Maconce Elem School, 6300 Church Road, Ira MI 48023
Maconce Elementary School is part of the Anchor Bay School District and has earned our highest rating due to the impact that the talented teachers at Maconce are having on student performance. Our algorithm assigns a well deserved 10/10 rating. Maconce Elementary is one of the best elementary schools in Metro Detroit.
It’s a shame that parents moving to the area aren’t getting the truth about this high-quality school. All the real estate search portals display a 6/10 rating for Maconce due to the biased system behind this unfair rating.
Our algorithm predicts that schools with similar demographics will, on average, score a 37.8 on the standardized test. The students at Maconce destroy this benchmark with an actual score of 57! That’s over 50% above expectations folks. Maconce Elementary operates in the top 2% of schools in the State of Michigan.
We’ve learned some things about Out-Performing Schools like Maconce Elementary based on our interview with 13 principals at Out-Performing elementary schools in Chicago. One surprising trend is they tend to have 3 or more strong partnerships with community service organizations that provide free services for the school. That’s why Maconce’s mission statement doesn’t surprise us! From their website:
“Francois Maconce Elementary School, in partnership with the community, will provide a learning environment by delivering quality instruction that promotes curiosity, creativity and the desire in students to reach their full potential.”
Parents, Maconce is a high-quality school that deserves to be on your short list!
Looking to move to the area? We found this 3BD/2BA home near Maconce Elementary and it is currently listed for $239,900.
2. Oakman Elementary School, 7545 Chase Rd, Dearborn, MI 48126
Oakman Elementary School, located in the Dearborn Public Schools District, is underrated with a 6/10 rating on the major real estate search portals. Our more equitable ratings algorithm assigns a 10/10 rating based on the school’s incredible influence on student performance.
Our algorithm predicts schools with similar demographics will score 33.7 on average, but Oakman Elementary students slay this expected score with a 52! That’s nearly 57% above expectations. Oakman Elementary is one of the best elementary schools in Metro Detroit, and they are among the top 3% of public schools in the State of Michigan.
Oakman has a 0 diversity score, but that isn’t really the whole story. A large percentage of the student population are of Middle Eastern descent. The school reports this population as white (there is not a middle eastern option), so on paper, this school is predominantly white. But in reality, the children at Oakman elementary get exposure to vibrant diversity and children from different cultures.
The diversity score should be more like a 20/40 which means any child at this school will gain from the benefits that come with diverse cultures, including better teamwork and decision making skills, social-emotional development, more acceptance of others, and possibly even higher IQ’s! These are the kids we want leading the next generation.
Parents, don’t overlook Oakman Elementary School! No doubt your child will get a world class education at this fine institution.
For more information, check out their website.
Thinking about moving to the area? We found this 3BD/2BA home located close to the school, and currently listed for $190,000.
3. Douglas Elementary 34 Campus, 6400 Hartel, Garden City, MI 48135
Douglas Elementary is in the Garden City Public School District and earns our highest rating as a result of the impact the hard working and dedicated educators are having on student performance. This is a 10/10 school, one the best elementary schools in Metro Detroit, and in the top 3% of schools in the entire State of Michigan.
Due to the inherent bias of the GreatSchools rating system, the major real estate search portals are displaying a 6/10 rating for Douglas. Parents get steered away from this high-quality school where talented teachers are killing it when it comes to educating kids.
Douglas kids scored a 55 on the test, when the predicted average score for schools with similar demographics is 36.9. That’s nearly 50% over expectations!
No doubt it’s not only the test scores that make this school great. Outperforming schools like Douglas tend to have strong partnerships with the community, a powerful culture of inclusion, and high teacher morale. Kids thrive in this environment.
Douglas’ mission statement from their website:
The Douglas 3-4 Campus and community are committed to creating a safe, positive environment where academic excellence and individual growth is promoted. All students will value education, accept their social and global responsibilities and become life-long learners.
Thinking about moving to the area? We found this 3BD home a short walk from the school and currently listed at $110,000.
4. James Foote School, 3250 Abbott, Lincoln Park, MI 48146
Foote Elementary is one of the most underrated schools in Michigan. All the real estate search portals display an unjust 4/10 rating. But SchoolSparrow’s rating system more accurately assesses school quality by taking into account the socio-economic status of student’s families.
Our ratings algorithm assigns Foote Elementary with our highest rating: a 10/10 as a result of the impact that educators are having on student performance.
Our algorithm predicts that schools with a similar demographic profile to that of Foote Elementary will, on average, achieve a score of 35.6. But Foote Elementary blows this expected score out of the water with a 52. That’s 46% better than expected!
That’s why Foote Elementary is one of the best elementary schools in Metro Detroit. Foote Elementary operates in the top 4% of schools in the State of Michigan.
Add to this a respectable 20/40 diversity rating, and folks, you have a school that absolutely should be on your shortlist of potential schools for your child.
The research is clear, kids that grow up with diversity have better social-emotional skills, teamwork and decision making skills, more acceptance of other cultures/races, and possibly even higher IQ’s. These are the kids we want leading the next generation.
We love a quote by Principal Lynch because based on student performance, she’s delivering on her statement:
“I am passionate about meeting the needs of all students, providing excellent instruction using best practices and creating a positive learning environment. It is important to me that everyone who steps through our doors – teachers, students and parents are excited to be here and feel valued.”
To learn more about Foote Elementary, check out their website.
And if you are considering a move, we found this 3BD home close the school and currently listed for $79,900!
5. River Oaks Elementary School, 20755 Ann Arbor Trail, Dearborn Heights, MI 48127
River Oaks Elementary School is in the Dearborn City School District and has earned SchoolSparrow’s highest rating: a 10/10 based on the impact that teachers at River Oaks are having on student performance. Folks, this is one of the best elementary schools in Metro Detroit, so don’t believe the 6/10 rating you’ll see on all the real estate search portals.
Our algorithm predicts that schools with similar demographics average a score of 37.2 on the standardized test. But students at River Oaks are operating in the top 7% of schools statewide with an actual score of 51! That’s nearly 40% over expectations. This kind of performance doesn’t happen without an inclusive culture with strong leadership and high teacher morale.
Our hats are off to the River Oaks Elementary School Community! Keep up the good work.
Interested in this area? We found this 3BD home close to the school and currently listed for $134,900.
But That’s Not All
These 5 schools are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unfairly underrated Michigan schools. Below are 5 additional schools that the major real estate search portals portray unfairly. Our more truthful algorithm assigns a 9/10 or 10/10 for all of these schools listed below, but the major real estate search portals all display an unfair 6 or below.
- Arno Elementary School, 7500 Fox Avenue, Allen Park, MI 48101
- Hanley International Academy, 2400 Denton Street, Hamtrack, MI 48212
- Detroit Edison Public School Academy, 1903 Wilkins Street, Detroit, MI 48207
- Barth Elementary School, 38207 Barth Street, Romulus, MI 48174
- Martin Luther King Jr Education Center Academy, 16827 Appline Street, Detroit, MI 48235
Would you like to see the real estate search portals start sharing more balanced information about our Metro Detroit public schools? You can share our facebook post or tweet this:
Please consider displaying school ratings via @schoolsparrow that tell more truth about our awesome Metro Detroit public schools. @zillow @redfin @realtordotcom @homesnapTweet
Our mission is to bring equitable school rankings to all families in the US, so that a home purchase decision can be made with a more balanced view of school quality. Today school rankings are biased towards privileged neighborhoods, and they unfairly discount schools with the socio-economic diversity. We aim to bring equity to school rankings.