Clock ticking on failing schools; lawmaker calls plan 'irresponsible'
A Democratic lawmaker today called for more transparency on aggressive plans by the State School Reform Office to close chronically failing schools in Michigan.
"The decision to close an unknown number of schools, based on data from two entirely different tests without any clear, consistent and transparent processes to help schools improve, is completely irresponsible," said Rep. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor.
"This will leave Michigan families in flux, wondering what their options will be for their children's education going forward," Zemke said.
He called the decision-making process "mysterious" and said "we don't even know how these extreme decisions about our children's futures are being made."
Natasha Baker, the head of the school reform office, said Monday that a decision will be made by the end of 2016 on which schools would close. Those at risk, she said, have been poor-performing for years and should close so the students in the schools have better opportunities.
The decision is taking heat from educators who had been assured by the Michigan Department of Education that the scores on the state's new exam — the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress — wouldn't be used for accountability purposes until 2017. But the school reform office operates separately from the education department, and says it will use results from that new exam, in addition to results from the now-retired MEAP exam.
MDE officials declined to comment for a story Monday. But Martin Ackley, spokesman for the MDE, said in a statement today that the department is "keeping to that commitment," to not use the assessment data to rank schools now.
"The State Reform Office, outside of the Michigan Department of Education, is choosing to use its own authority outlined in state law, to identify a new bottom 5 percent of schools," Ackley said.
The number of schools that would close is unknown. The reform office is starting with a list of 128 schools that performed in the bottom 5% academically in 2014 — based on MEAP scores. But the office will also look at 2015 and 2016 rankings. Baker said the final number will be far less than the number identified in 2014 and include those schools that consistently were the worst-performing in all three years.
Contact Lori Higgins: 313-222-6651, email@example.com or @LoriAHigginsClock ticking on failing schools; lawmaker calls plan 'irresponsible':