The Truth About Charter Schools and K-12 Education in Michigan

Remarks by GLEP’s Gary Naeyaert at the Gerald R. Ford Institute for Leadership in Public Policy at Albion College | February 27, 2017

  • Despite $14 billion/year investment in K-12, academic performance is lacking
    • Less than 50% of students are proficient in any grade or any subject on M-STEP
    • Less than 20% of high school juniors are “college and career-ready” per ACT
    • One of few states where 4th Grade reading proficiency has DECLINED in 10 years

Why is Michigan’s educational performance below the national average?

  • Balkanized governance, no consensus mission; too many chiefs/few braves
  • Superintendent of Public Instruction is appointed by elected State Board of Ed
    • 6-2 Democrat majority for nearly 10 years; now 4-4 R vs D
  • Governor has no authority over schools (Gov should appoint the Supt & SBE)
  • Legislature funds education and intervenes often
  • Higher education institutions are constitutionally autonomous (teacher prep, etc)
  • Something uniquely bad has been happening in the Detroit Public Schools
    • DPS enrollment was 180,000 students 15 years ago, today it’s 45,000
    • Detroit ranks dead last in NAEP scores (way below other cities)
    • History of corruption (Emergency Managers; 12 principals went to jail last year)
    • 47% of Detroit adults are functionally illiterate; half received DPS diplomas
  • Improvements in education require a 3-pronged approach, pushed by GLEP:
    • Choice
      • We have charters, but were under a cap for over a decade, stifling growth
        • Currently 300 charters with 150,000 enrollment (10% of all students)
      • Online charter enrollment capped at 2% of statewide enrollment
      • Demand continues to outpace supply; still waiting lists at many charters
      • Michigan is only Midwest state without private school choice program
    • Quality
      • Michigan Merit Curriculum passed in 2007 under Governor Granholm
        • Created most rigorous standards in the country
        • ACT test required for all juniors, paid for by the state
        • ACT score is HIGHER than when only college-prep juniors took it
      • MDE increased proficiency cut scores from 35% to 65% “correct” in 2012
        • Eliminated “illusion of proficiency” and started telling parents the truth
        • Statewide proficiency dropped from 80% to 55% w/new cut score
      • Michigan passed a K-3 Reading bill to improve early literacy in 2016
    • Accountability
      • MDE’s “Rainbow Report Card” identifying schools by colors isn’t meaningful
        • Plus “Top to Bottom” Ranking; Priority, Reward & Focus labels
      • We need a simple A-F accountability system to give parent’s better info on school performance, balancing proficiency with student growth.
      • Despite having the power since 2011, the state hasn’t put a single district school in the State Reform District or closed one for academic failure.
      • We simply must have clear consequences for chronic failure. Get better or be closed. Over 100 charters have been closed over the years.
  • Michigan has failed to attract quality charter operators from other states:
    • Cap in 1999 closed state for national operators (hit cap < most had charters)
    • Charter school students receive $1,400 less per pupil in total revenue
    • Charter access to facilities is difficult given resistance of districts to sell buildings
    • Charter operators face hostile environment (political tension & union backlash)
    • Charter schools can’t be as innovative since they must follow every law, rule and regulation affecting traditional public schools, with the following exceptions:
      • Not subject to state tenure act
      • May contract via third-party for instructional services, avoiding MPSERS
      • May limit enrollment to capacity, requiring random lotteries
      • Can’t levy local taxes
      • Mandatory closure in state law
  • Despite these challenges, key facts about charter school performance in Michigan:
    • Charters (2/3 at-risk) are less proficient than the statewide average (1/3 at-risk)
      • Socioeconomic status is linked to academic performance (not an excuse)
    • Charter students are MORE proficient than their demographic district peers
    • Charter students experience 2+ months (3+ in Detroit) of additional learning gains (i.e. growth) when compared to their demographic district peers
      • Charters: longer school day/year; balanced calendar; no union K
    • Continuously-enrolled (3+ years) students in charter public schools (2/3 at risk) MATCH the proficiency rates of the statewide average (1/3 at risk)
  • Highlights of Detroit school proficiency on the 2015 M-STEP:
    • 18 of the Top 25 schools are Charters
    • 23 of the Bottom 25 schools are DPS Schools
    • Charters are 60% more proficient than DPS (DPS: 9%; Charters: 14%)
    • Open enrollment charters & DPS schools vs “selective” enrollment DPS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CURRENT ISSUES

  • Standards & Assessment: Efforts to repeal college-and-career-ready standards
    • Adopt old/rejected MA state standards and return to paper/pencil tests
  • Failing Schools: 38 “failing schools” via SRO; March release postponed until May
    • GLEP recommends closure, or “replacement” if undue hardship exemption
  • ESSA Accountability Plan: Public comment until 3/16; submission in April
    • Federal Gov’t giving more flexibility and returning decision-making to the states
  • K-12 Budget: uniform foundation grant vs. differentiated funding by grade/model

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