STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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This special reporting project wrapped up in May 2017. Read more.

Ideas & Stuff: A side-by-side comparison of two Michigan school districts

Jennifer Guerra
Michigan Radio

A couple weeks ago, we did a story about what you get for a $12,000/pupil education. A few weeks before that, we aired an hour-long show called The Education Gap what we compared two different districts - one that gets around $8,300 per pupil, and the other that gets around $7,600 per pupil.

As you can imagine, there's a huge disparity between the $7,600 education and the $12,000 education, and a fairly big gap between the $7,600 and $8,300 education. But what about the difference between the middle and high-spending districts?

Let's take a look.

A few more things to compare:

Birmingham's average class size is around 21 students at the elementary level; Novi's is a little higher - roughly 24 kids at the K-4 level and 26 kids at the 5-6 grade level.

Birmingham's free and reduced lunch population is 7%, Novi's is 10%. The average teacher salary for the two districts is very similar, according to data from the Michigan Department of Education: $76,306 for Birmingham, $76,043 for Novi.

While both districts offer before- and after-school care, parents have to pay a tuition to use the service. Both schools offer a variety of after-school activities like photography, chess, and environmental clubs. Sports are not offered until middle school.

Student test scores in both districts are also quite similar. For the sake of simplicity, here's how two 5th grades from each district stack up in terms of their 2012-13 MEAP scores: Novi Meadows MATH: 74.8% proficient / Birmingham Pierce MATH: 71.8%; Novi Meadows READING: 81.8% proficient / Birmingham Pierce READING: 90.5%

(NOTE: The vast majority of money spent in Birmingham and Novi is a combination of state and local dollars; neither district receives a significant amount of its budget from the federal government.)

Jennifer is a reporter with Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and worked as a producer for WFUV in the Bronx.