OACS earns academic state champion award

by Angie Asam-Staff Writer

Onaway Area Community Schools (OACS) has a new award to celebrate; they were recently named academic state champions as they were ranked as the 29th best school in the state of Michigan (560 total districts).

Bridge Magazine and Public Sector Consultants compiled the database, which ranks schools by a value added matrix (VAM). A VAM score of 100 means that students are achieving at expected levels for their income level, the higher the VAM score the better students are performing on standardized tests.

OACS had an overall VAM of 110.25; good for 29th in the state and third in the intermediate school district as Johannesburg was 16th and Gaylord was 13th. But Onaway has certainly showed the value they can add to students expected achievement.

The elementary building was third in the entire state with a VAM of 126.74, just three points behind the first place school at that level. The middle school was 87th and the high school was 397th.

Elementary principal Mindy Horn attributes the good score to many things. “Many, many years of work, particularly on our reading series and the attention that has been paid recently to improving our math series,” said Horn.

Horn said the movement upward started with the previous principals who laid the groundwork for all the improvements the staff has been working on to get the school where it is today.

ULTIMATELY HORN said all the credit needs to go to the students who no longer wonder or hope they are going to make it; they assume they are going to make it. “They know where they want to be and they are constantly asking and checking how they are doing. Their academics have become like their new sporting event,” said Horn.

One of the major contributors to the elementary level success can also be attributed to the CARDS program, a Michigan Behavior and Learning Support Initiative (MiBLSI) program that teaches expected behavior in the elementary.

The program reminds students to choose respect, act responsibly, ready to learn, do your best and safety first. Students are rewarded for following the expected behavior guidelines.

“The CARDS program is definitely part of it. We have a very intense focus on exactly where the kids need to be at certain checkpoints during the year. We have set up a lot of intervention programs, especially in reading, so that if we think a kid is slipping or is in danger of slipping we are reassessing that student every two weeks and adjusting the instruction to meet that students needs,” said Horn.

Horn and her staff are always looking at ways to improve tings for the students and spend a lot of time in the summer planning so they can use the school days for instruction and time with the students.

Along with the intervention the staff is also all using the same routine, which makes transitions from one grade to another easier on the students as they are not starting all over again.

Horn said parent support is also a huge part of the schools success. “I’d like to recognize the parents. They hang with us. Making changes, especially big changes, in a short period of time is frustrating and the parents take the time to ask us questions and try to find out why we do things. They are always asking if we need anything. That kind of parent support is invaluable, that matters more than anything. Without the tremendous parent support we have we wouldn’t be where we are,” said Horn.