Michigan to take aggressive action, close failing schools
Michigan’s School Reform Office plans to make aggressive moves this coming school year to rid the state of failing schools — putting chronically low-performing schools on notice that they might be closed by next June.
The number of schools expected to be shuttered isn’t known, said Natasha Baker, the director of the State School Reform Office. In 2014, more than 100 Michigan were ranked in the bottom 5%, but Baker cautioned against assuming that the state would close that many schools. She said that even the most aggressive school reformers have never attempted to close that many schools at one time.
“It is nowhere near 100 schools,” Baker said. “There has never been 100 school closings, and we certainly aren’t going to start that practice in Michigan.”
Baker said the aggressive action — first reported Monday by Chalkbeat Detroit — is needed because the state can’t continue to allow schools to fail year after year. She said the schools that would be identified for closure have failed for as many as 10 years.
“Why now? If not now, when?” Baker asked. “How long does a child who does not control what situation they’re born into not have access to a high-performing schools?”
But it’s a move that’s sure to create controversy. Though the reform office has had the ability to close schools since 2010, this would be the first time it would do so. And it’s planning to use the results of the state’s tough new exam to make decisions about which schools will close — despite assurances educators had been given by the Michigan Department of Education that those results would not be used for high-stakes decisions until 2017.
There are some caveats in the closures, though. Schools wouldn’t close if there are no high-performing options for the kids who are displaced.
“When I say 'quality,' it’s not relative,” Baker said. “Quality means the school is not at risk of being a priority school.”
She said she’s working on alternative plans for schools that would close in areas where there isn’t a high-performing option.
“I’m not at liberty to share the ideas because they’re controversial,” she said. “We hope to roll that out publicly in the coming weeks.”
Schools will learn by the end of 2016 whether they’re slated for closure, Michigan to take aggressive action, close failing schools: