Failing Charter Public Schools Are Shut Down; Conventional Public Schools Remain Open

'Charter schools have traditionally been the only public schools that have been held accountable for their performance'

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There are 51 schools that have been in the bottom 5 percent of the Michigan Department of Education's Top-to-Bottom rankings three years in a row. Of those 51 schools, four were charter public schools and three of those four were closed.

Meanwhile, the conventional public schools on the list remain open.

"Charter schools have traditionally been the only public schools that have been held accountable for their performance," said Michigan Association of Public School Academies President Dan Quisenberry. "If they fail their students, they're closed down. That's never happened with a traditional public school, ever. What we need is this same level of accountability for all schools — charter or traditional."

Twenty-nine of the 51 schools that finished three consecutive years in the bottom 5 percent were conventional schools in the Detroit Public Schools district, or were former DPS schools that have recently been converted to charter public schools or are now under supervision of the Educational Achievement Authority. The EAA was created to help the lowest performing conventional public school districts improve.

Claims about a lack of accountability in charter public schools have been a topic in the news recently since the Detroit Free Press did a series on what it determined were problems with some charter public schools. The series quoted various officials insisting on more accountability for charter public schools in Michigan. It did not address problems with conventional public schools

The Free Press series looked at school districts that were in the bottom 5 percent in the state's Top-to-Bottom rankings, which evaluates student performance in mathematics, reading, writing, science, social studies and for graduation rates.

The three charter public schools that made the list that closed were: Academy of Flint in Flint Township; Aisha Shule/Web Dubois Preparatory Academy in Detroit; and the Center Literacy & Creativity in Detroit.

The Nah Tah Wahsh Public School Academy is still open. That charter school is located in Wilson in Menominee County and services primarily Potawatomi students.

The Michigan Association of Public School Academies has offered a "School Accountability Pledge" to conventional public schools asking those schools to adhere to the same accountability, transparency and oversight laws as the state's charter public schools. One of the standards in the pledge includes closing any school that is in the bottom 5 percent of the Top-to-Bottom list for four straight years.

As of July 7, no conventional school districts have signed the pledge.

"People concerned about Michigan's failing schools should be concerned about conventional schools," said Audrey Spalding, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

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