This Week & Next (Sept 2, 2016)

SRO (finally) releases 2015 “Bottom 5%” list
Yesterday, the State Reform Office (SRO) finally released the 2015 “Bottom 5%” list of the 124 schools that are the poorest performing in the state, based on results from the 2015 M-STEP test. You see, even though this particular test was taken over a year ago, and despite a statutory requirement to publish this list annually, MDE made the decision NOT to publish a “Bottom 5%” list last year because it was the first year using the new M-STEP assessment.

Landing on the list of poorest-performing schools in the state usually doesn’t mean much, since the state has yet to close a SINGLE traditional public school for academic failure. However, under the very clear and unambiguous language in PA 192 (HB 5384, Garcia), the SRO is required to close any Detroit school that appears on this list for three consecutive years. And the SRO has announced they would use the same criteria to intervene or close chronically-failing schools located outside of Detroit.

Now that this list takes on more meaning, here are the 54 schools on both the 2014 and 2015 “Bottom 5%” lists, which also includes their “Top to Bottom” percentile ranking going back to 2010.  There are 35 Detroit schools (20 DPS, 11 EAA and 4 charters) and 19 outstate schools (16 traditional public and 3 charters) on this list. Once the 2016 “Bottom 5%” list is published on November 1, we’ll know which schools are on all three lists, which will make them candidates for intensive intervention or possible closure. Or at least that’s what we thought…..

Governor declares accountability holiday in Detroit – Meekhof and Cotter scratch their heads
In a stunning, shocking and frustrating turn of events, it was reported yesterday that Governor  Snyder has accepted the argument in a legal opinion memo from Miller Canfield (bought and paid for by local school district interest groups, naturally) that the recently passed DPS bailout/rescue legislation actually prohibits the state from closing any failing schools in Detroit for the next three years. Poppycock.

As a result, the Governor has announced an “accountability holiday” in Detroit for the next three years, instructing the State Reform Office that no failing traditional public schools in Detroit should be closed. This announcement was met bluntly by House Speaker Kevin Cotter and Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, who both were quite insistent that the $617 million DPS bailout legislation included tough new measures to address chronically failing schools in the state’s largest school district.

GLEP continues to advocate for the even-handed application of state intervention, including closure, for both traditional and charter public schools that consistently fail to teach kids. The future of our students is too important for us to continue tolerating abject failure without consequences.

2016 M-STEP results released
The results from the 2016 M-STEP test were also released this week, and it was a startling wake up call for those that care about education in the state. In 18 subjects and grade levels tested, in only 1 were 50% of students considered proficient (5th grade English). In only the second year of the more rigorous assessment, it clearly shows how far we still need to go in order to improve academic outcomes for our students. It was very disheartening to see that 3rd grade reading proficiency had dropped in 2016 when compared to 2015. Even though MDE and the traditional school world tried to put a happy face on student performance, the facts are that our scores went from abysmal to terrible. Chalkbeat Detroit nailed it when they wrote that sinking test scores won’t help DPS with closure threats looming. We can, and must, do better.

MLive looks at impact of charters and school choice
According to a statewide MLive story this week, 23% of students in the state are choosing to enroll in a traditional public school outside of their “assigned” school or a charter public school. Frankly, we were a bit surprised by the balance in this story given the history of the authors.  We really think everyone should read this compelling story about this Mom who says she can’t sacrifice her children when it comes to school choice. We agree that parents should always put the needs of their children above the needs of the local school district.  Here’s the take from Grand Rapids, where 26% of students opt for a school beyond their government-assigned traditional public school.

Michigan voters overwhelmingly support school choice
A new survey released this week by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy finds strong support for school choice among likely voters in Michigan. Marketing Resource Group interviewed 800 likely voters in June 2014 and again in July 2016 and found that approval of school choice, charter schools and vouchers has remained relatively stable over that time. School choice is popular in Michigan, with more voters supporting than opposing on every question, in some cases by large margins. A majority of respondents also reject the idea that school choice hurts public schools. “It’s reassuring to see an overwhelming majority of Michigan voters support the idea that parents should be free to direct their child’s education,” said Ben DeGrow, education policy director at the Mackinac Center. “Lawmakers should take note that, despite the onslaught of attacks on educational freedom in Michigan, public opinion is very much in favor of school choice.” Click here to access the full survey.

Education Reform News Clips

Next Week

Monday, September 5

  • Labor Day

Tuesday, September 6

  • Senate Session

Wednesday, September 7

  • Senate Session
  • House Session

Thursday, September 8

  • Senate Session
  • House Session

Friday, September 9

Do you support what GLEP is doing to improve education in Michigan? Please consider making a donation to help us continue our efforts, and all contributions are very much appreciated!!


Gary G. Naeyaert
Executive Director