Jaaskelainen admits that some kids "game" the system--they don't study, knowing they'll be able to retake the test again and again until they reach the "mastery" score of 80 percent. While Neaton allows that "there are definitely refinements to that that need to be made," he also argues that "gaming a B minus is better than gaming a D minus."
Nothing slows the smart kids down, Neaton says. But for the ones who might get left behind, it's essential to "make a very enabling, encouraging, supporting system, because you have to win at that psychological level before you can get a student to engage ... You really have to invest time in creating that [message that], 'Yes, you must, you will, you can.' And then you start pulling people on board, and the whole system works better."
Neaton says that in assessing Skyline's success, his benchmarks are the other comprehensive high schools, because "we basically divided the Huron population and the Pioneer population for Skyline." He says he sees a measurable difference in outcomes, with Skyline kids testing better than their peers at the two older schools in some areas: on the spring 2011 Michigan Merit Exam (MME), Pioneer had the highest average scores in math, reading, and social studies, while Skyline had the highest averages in sciences and writing, with Huron trailing in all five.