Detroit Public Schools Super Responds To ‘Charter Students Outperform’ Report

Vitti: We serve more special ed students, charters no silver bullet, state hasn’t helped

Dr. Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District

A Michigan Capitol Confidential report published on Jan. 4 described research indicating that students in Detroit charter schools do better than their peers attending schools operated by the Detroit Public Schools Community District. Here’s the Detroit school district superintendent’s response:

Dr. Nikolai Vitti, superintendent, Detroit Public Schools Community District:

“One cannot review student performance at scale in Detroit and be content--district or charter performance. As a district that realized local control for the first time in over a decade, student performance is a reflection of a lack of systems and processes under emergency management linked to best practice for reform in the areas of curriculum adoption, academic and behavior interventions, assessments, and professional development. Despite those lack of systems and processes and especially when considering that the district supports a number of more special education students, one cannot legitimately make the case that improving student performance in isolation can be done through charter school expansion. Charter schools are not a sliver bullet for improved performance in Detroit. With that said, educators in the district now look to the future to demonstrate, at scale, stronger improvement through a district office that understands reform. Our focus moving forward is on the 50K students within our school district, not charter schools, and ensuring that our district performance improves as we rebuild the district. This will and must happen. This begins next year with a new infrastructure to support teaching and learning. We have been hard at work to begin that build out this year for the fall.”

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Detroit Prep is a top-rated and economically and racially diverse charter school in the city. It's growth means it needs to move out from a church basement and into a new location. Nearby is a former Detroit Public Schools building, sitting empty for years. But, worried about competition, the public school district refused to sell. For years, district and local government officials in Detroit had worked to block public charter schools. They pushed legislation at the Michigan Capitol to hinder them, refused to sell to them, transferred surplus buildings from the district to the city government and imposed deed restrictions on property sales to private developers. All of it was aimed to hinder or even prevent charter school choice outside the confines of the Detroit school district.

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