Official State Plan for Failing Schools: Meetings, Plans, Discussions, More Plans

State won’t close chronically failed Detroit schools, but bureaucrats and stakeholders plan to make plans

The term “gobbledygook” was created sometime in the 1940s to denote meaningless bureaucratic phrases, which often find their way into government press releases.

The Michigan Department of Education is a frequent contemporary source of such language. Some examples include the “partnership agreements” crafted by the department and various “stakeholders,” including the Detroit school district, to keep open several failed Detroit schools. Not only are these among Michigan’s worst public schools, they have for years shown a persistent inability to improve by remaining on a state “watch list.”

The partnership agreements are filled with jargon.

For example, the parties agree to “identify district-wide expectations” and “establish initial goals and strategies.”

Administrators, the agreements say, will “conduct a deep review and discussion” with each partnership school and other “stakeholders” (a corporate governance buzzword that, according to Google’s book scans, entered popular usage around 1983).

Next up, the agreements call for officials in various government agencies as well as stakeholders to “develop and refine goals” and “identify and engage additional partners.”

If the plan stalls after this point, an “Implementation and Accountability Team” will help make “adjustments to strategies based on experience and circumstances.” It may even go as far as using “progressive interventions” if more work is needed.

The Implementation and Accountability Team also may “revise or otherwise change the strategies for achieving the goals” or “amend or adopt a new plan.” Neither act involves implementing a plan or holding a school to account.

There's also a guarantee, though not of quality: The plan assures the poor-performing schools that none of them will be closed for at least three years.

Parents of children assigned to these schools may not be reassured by the final step of the partnership agreements, either: “If the curative actions are not successful, then the process shall be repeated with an increasing level of intervention.”

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The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a free market, non-partisan educational institute workings towards a freer and fairer government. Our main focuses are in the following policy areas: Fiscal, Education, Energy and Environment, Labor, and Criminal Justice. Learn more at www.mackinac.org/issues

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