News Story

Charters Top List Of Detroit’s Best Public High Schools

City’s 3 best were charters

Fourteen of the top 17 public high schools in the city of Detroit are charter schools, according to a Mackinac Center for Public Policy report card that reflects the socioeconomic status of a school’s student body.

All of the top three public high schools in the city are public charter schools: Frontier International Academy, Cesar Chavez High School and Universal Academy.

Meanwhile, the top-performing high schools that are part of the Detroit Public Schools Community District were categorized as selective schools because, unlike charters, they can choose to turn away students.

Renaissance High School was the fourth-best public high school in the city, according to the adjusted student performance scores, and Cass Technical High School was number seven. Both are operated by the Detroit school district, and both require prospective students to take an examination to be considered for admission.

Under state law, a charter school must accept any student who wishes to enroll, as long as it has space. Many charter schools have a waiting list because more parents want to send their children there than can be accommodated. In these cases, the school must use a lottery to determine which students get in.

Of the 15 charter high schools in Detroit, three received an A on the report card, which is adjusted to reflect the influence of family income on student performance. Three of these schools received a B, five received a C, three received a D and one received an F.

Of the 22 conventional high schools within the Detroit school district, the two selective schools received a B, and one regular high school also received a B. One conventional high school got a D and the remaining 18 conventional high schools each received an F.

The Mackinac Center’s report card adjusts student assessment results to reflect the socioeconomic status of each school’s student body. This is based on how many of a school’s students are eligible for free and reduced lunch programs, which is based on their household income. The Mackinac Center uses student scores on the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP) and the SAT. Its report card is based on test results from 2015 to 2018.

Without adjusting for a student’s socioeconomic background, schools in affluent communities almost always place at the top of statewide school rankings, and those in poorer ones almost always finish at or near the bottom, said Ben DeGrow, the Mackinac Center’s director of education policy.

Charter schools, especially in Detroit, have been attacked by Detroit Public School Community District officials, including Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. Over the past two years, Vitti has said school choice was disastrous in some cases, and that letting parents choose their children’s school is not the right solution for the city’s troubled public school system.

Many parents disagree.

The city of Detroit has the second-highest charter school enrollment in the country, surpassed only by Philadelphia in the number of students attending charters. Detroit has 50,460 students in charter schools as of the 2016-17 school year, while 44,890 students attend the conventional public school district, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Detroit Public Schools Community District officials declined to comment.

“This is one more piece of evidence that charter schools are working. High school is all about setting students up for success later in life, and charter schools are obviously succeeding at that,” said Michigan Association of Public School Academy President Dan Quisenberry. “We need to build on this success across all schools, because every student in Michigan deserves a great education in a great school.”