Napoleon High School tops in Jackson County academically



By John Hummer


Napoleon High School has made it to the top academically. That’s according to the Michigan Index System scores that came out earlier this month from the Michigan Department of Education. It is a “snapshot in time” score based largely on state assessment tests, but one that the district is proud of and hopes to maintain.

“Napoleon High School has things going in a great and positive direction,” said Co-principal Patrick Dillon. “We all do the best we can for our kids with what we have and continue to look for ways to meet the needs of our students and staff.”

NHS received an Overall Index score of 94.02 to lead all high schools in Jackson County. Coming in second in the county was Hanover-Horton at 88.45, followed closely by Grass Lake at 86.95 and Western at 84.79.

“I’m extremely proud of the high school staff and administration,” said district superintendent Jim Graham. “On top of that, I’m even more proud of our students. They’ve all made the district proud.”

“We have a great senior class,” said high school teacher Julie Roberts, who also serves as the school improvement chair, testing coordinator, and coordinator of student services. “It’s their data that’s shining.” She added that students are thinking about their next step earlier in their high school careers which lends itself to having them be more prepared academically.


Patrick Dillon, Co-Principal for Napoleon High School

“Culturally, its okay for them to be academically sound and challenge themselves,” she said. “For a long time society-wise, we avoided that. It’s more about changing the mindset of having students be proactive about their planning and the paths their heading on rather than being reactive. We’re trying to foster that culture here of ‘hey, let’s start thinking about your next steps – trying to plant those seeds earlier.”

Dillon said the system and sequence of required coursework expose students to a great deal of material that is most likely to be tested.

“Our teachers understand this and plan lessons and courses to maximize building skills and knowledge in a logical progression,” he said, adding, “Ultimately, we have great teachers and students that put in the work.” He credited the school’s success in part to a fairly veteran staff, with even “new” teachers coming to the district with some experience. He says the district’s teachers have a great deal of autonomy and are considered “masters of their content.”

One of those teachers is Craig Booher, with a track record of 28 years as a teacher at NHS and social studies department chair. He calls it a “community thing” that leads to success and consistency of test scores at the school from year to year.

“We have a great parent group in this community,” he said. “We generally have good families. Overwhelmingly parents are supportive and are pushing their kids to be successful, and that plays a huge role. When you have that community support, you start right off with a head start right off the bat.”

Booher also pointed to the stability throughout the district at all levels.

“From the elementary to the middle school to the high school, there’s a lot of cooperation there.” And stability.

“Stability counts for a lot,” he said. “We have stable families, stable staff, and a stable administration. You can take ‘good’ and make it better.”

The Michigan School Index System report includes federally-required school accountability measures under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015. Up to six components make up a school’s overall index value. The index system calculates values from 0-100 for the school overall, as well as any components or subgroups within the school. Index values are based on the degree to which schools met targets in the different components.

Exploring the Michigan School Index System report can answer questions like did all the students at the school participate in state assessments? Was student achievement high enough or improving to meet the targets set for the school? Did the school meet the graduation rate targets? How is the school doing overall with meeting accountability targets?

Dillon credits Roberts for much of the success over the past 19 years she’s been in the district, but particularly since she took on the student services coordinator role four years ago.

“She puts in an unbelievable amount of time that nobody sees,” he said.

He says Roberts meets with every student to put together an academic plan that may include some type of college program or credit.

“She always keeps their post-high school interests and goals in mind, which serves them very well later on,” he said.

Dillon also found that many of this year’s seniors (upon which 2016-17 data was based) have successfully completed dual enrollment and/or advanced placement offerings and had 100 percent participation in testing last year. He pointed out that the school’s attendance and graduation rates “have always been stellar, which speaks to the support of our community.”

Dillon says the district and high school continue to work on improving its programs despite lower student enrollment (a statewide trend) and staffing reductions over the last several years. He said the high school will be offering AP Computer Science Principles next year as well as a new Pre-Algebra course and noted that the school also has a good start in building its robotics program which recently qualified for the world championships.

So now that Napoleon is in the top tier of schools statewide, even for a “snapshot in time”, how does the district maintain that status?

“As technology and careers evolve, it’s always going to cause us to think about what we’re doing and how we’re evolving here,” Roberts said. “The end goal is that students leave us and become productive, successful young people doing something that they enjoy, and that comes by giving them opportunities to take different avenues to foster that growth.”

Dillon says, traditionally, the school has been in the top three or four in the county on state test scores and does not plan to make any major overhauls, so anticipates that trend continuing. However, he said, there is a “bell curve” with statistics on a standard scale such as with state testing, because students in every school throughout the state change each year and are measured against each other at a snapshot in time.

“I’m not going to dwell on it, but I am going to celebrate our current situation,” he says proudly. “A lot of hard work by a lot of dedicated and caring professional educators went into getting where we are. I’ve been fortunate to be able to work with them and the kids we have.”

For complete results on county school index scores visit For more about the system and how scores are calculated, visit

1 Comment

  1. Waneta ( Carroll) Godfrey

    May 5, 2018 at 8:52 am

    So proud of the school that. Has educated my 5 th generation there my in laws, Aumscks, GOdfrey, my self, my husband, my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. A lot has changed, in the past years nut all for the good. Thank you.

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