News Story

Detroit Charters Nab Top 10 Average Student Body SAT Scores

‘The scoreboard doesn’t lie’

Editor's note: This story has been updated with comments from Detroit Public School Community District that challenges the list produced by the Michigan Association of Public School Academies.

Charter high schools in Detroit earned the top 10 spots in a list of school scores on the SAT college admission test. The list ranks schools by the average score attained by each school’s 11th-graders on the SAT, which is now administered to all high school juniors statewide.

The Michigan Department of Education recently released the 2018 M-STEP and SAT scores for every school in the state. The Michigan Association of Public School Academies (MAPSA) analyzed that data and came up with the top 10 list.

However, Detroit Public School Community District Nikolai Vitti said the list is missing one of his conventional high schools.

“Your list ignores Communications Media and Arts (CMA), which is a traditional public high school in DPSCD, which had an average SAT score of 890 and would be ranked as sixth on your list,” Vitti said in an email. “Obviously your list excludes any mention of Renaissance High School and Cass Tech, which would rank one and two on your list. Charter schools are not neighborhood schools and do not serve all children with special needs. Enrollment in charter schools is dependent on active parent choosers, no different than Cass Tech and Renaissance.”

However, Buddy Moorehouse, spokesman for MAPSA, said that their organization doesn't consider Communication Media and Arts an open-enrollment school.

"We don’t classify that school as open-enrollment because it requires prospective students to have a signed letter of recommendation before they’re admitted," Moorehouse said in an email. "The other open-enrollment DPSCD schools don’t require that, and neither does any charter school in the state. From the form, they’re looking to refuse admission to students with behavior issues. An open-enrollment school is one that allows any student to enroll with no such restrictions or requirements."

The test results are proof that Michigan charter schools are a success, according to a state organization that promotes charters.

“This is extremely significant,” said Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, the state charter school association. “We’re not talking two or three of the top 10 being charter schools – we’re talking all 10 of the top 10 being charter schools.”

The rankings apply to open-enrollment high schools, or schools whose admissions are not based on individual student qualifications. All charter schools admit on an open-enrollment basis, while a few magnet schools in the Detroit Public Schools Community District have selective admissions criteria.

Specifically, three of 18 high schools run by the district admit students on the basis of an assessment and meeting a base score on an entrance exam. These schools were not included in the rankings.

Students at the highest-ranking charter school, Detroit Edison Public School Academy, averaged 918.3 on the SAT, an assessment that measures aptitude in areas of reading, writing and arithmetic. The highest-performing conventional public school, Western International High School, ranked 11th overall in Detroit and scored 849.7.

Quisenberry called charter schools’ SAT performance “noteworthy on every level.”

“It's one more piece of evidence that when it comes to achievement and performance, charter schools are leading the way,” he continued. “The scoreboard doesn’t lie.”

In analyzing the data, the charter school association discovered that on the SAT test, the 10 highest-scoring open-enrollment schools in Detroit were all charter schools

Charter school enrollment in the city of Detroit has remained steady over the last several years, according to the National Association of Public Charter Schools.

There were 50,139 students enrolled in Detroit charter schools in 2009-10 and that number increased slightly to 50,460 by 2016-17, the latest year for which data is available.

Enrollment in the conventional public school district has plummeted over that seven-year span. There were 89,488 students enrolled in Detroit’s public school district in 2009-10 and that dropped to 44,890 students by 2016-17.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.