Two high schools have been on the state's poor academics watch list for five consecutive years
While the state of Michigan has questioned the accountability of charter public schools, some conventional public schools appear to get a free pass.
This week, the Michigan Department of Education released its list of “Priority” schools, or those in the bottom 5 percent of academic achievement in the state.
Lansing Eastern High School and Pontiac High School made the “Priority” list again for the 2013-14 school year, meaning the schools have been on the MDE’s academic watch list for five consecutive years.
Gary Naeyaert, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project, said no charter school could have stayed on the state’s watch list for that long and stayed open.
Once designated as a “Priority” low achieving school, the school district is required to work with the school and implement a redesign plan to improve the school. The entire improvement process is given four years by the state.
“Every Priority School needs to improve, including Lansing Eastern High School and Pontiac High School,” said Martin Ackley, spokesman for the MDE.
Audrey Spalding, director of education policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said under state law, the MDE can close a school that has been ranked among the bottom 5 percent of Michigan schools.
“The department has yet to do so,” Spalding said. “It looks like state officials are giving failing conventional schools a pass while cracking down on charter schools.”
The State Board of Education adopted a statement Aug. 12 asking that the Michigan Legislature develop “comprehensive charter school reform.”
State Superintendent Michael Flanagan announced on Aug. 11 that 11 of Michigan’s 40 charter school authorizers were put “at risk of suspension” by him, jeopardizing their ability to authorize any future charter schools.
“Top-To-Bottom Priority Schools” replaced “Persistently Low Achieving Schools” in 2011-12 as the Michigan Department of Education’s system for evaluating academic performance. The TTB list has been criticized for essentially just measuring the poverty-level of the student population of a district.