A New Federal Role

By Lawrence Hardy

It wasn't the kind of call a superintendent likes to get -- not at home, right before the Fourth of July. But Michael Shibler knew the reporter well and responded candidly to the news.

He called it "flat-out nuts."

Three elementary schools in Shibler's Central Michigan district had just been "identified for improvement" -- government jargon for "failing" -- by the U.S. Department of Education. Of these, two were state and national Blue Ribbon Schools, and the third had recently received the governor's Golden Apple Award for high state test scores. But because of an inexplicable (and temporary) drop in test scores a few years back, the three had joined 1,510 other Michigan schools on the national list.

"Top Schools Make Failing List," said the headline in the next day's Grand Rapids Press.

"Basically, I can't take this seriously," Shibler told ASBJ

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