Accountability? Nothing Appears Closer To Eternal Than A Failed Detroit School

Watch what they do, not what they say — or even what the law requires

The board of the Detroit public school district held a meeting Nov. 20 to discuss a Senate-passed bill that would require intermediate school districts to share with public charter schools some of the property tax revenue they may receive in the future from new millage requests.

Among other things, the information pack given to school board members for the meeting included details about state efforts to make districts more accountable for the academic progress of their students. “Michigan schools are subject to several accountability systems,” the packet stated. It named some, including an annual list that identifies the worst schools in the state.

ForTheRecord says: It’s ironic that Detroit school administrators would cite the state’s worst-school list as an example of accountability. The reason is simple: The state of Michigan has never shut down a conventional public school for poor academic performance, including any of the schools at the bottom of the performance list.

So much for individual school accountability. How about the school districts that operate those worst schools?

There are 12 individual public school buildings that have been at the bottom of that list since it was started in 2010. Nine of them are operated by the Detroit school district.

The same 2009 law that required the state to maintain the annual “Top-to-Bottom” performance list also requires the worst schools be given four years to turn themselves around. If they don’t, the law says, they face severe consequences, including closure or conversion into a charter school.

But no such thing has happened, and every year, new cohorts of children enter the same failed schools. Last April, the Michigan Department of Education announced it was forming something it calls “partnership agreements” with these schools.

“By entering into this Partnership Agreement, the threat of the school having to close at the end of the current school year is avoided,” the state announced in April. “The progress of each of the identified schools will be monitored and given assistance when and where it is needed. There are timeframes set for in the Agreements when each school needs to show measurable improvements.”

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