No Sports At Charters? Good Teams Can’t Undo A Poor School

Charter schools in Detroit short on sports but most outperform on academics

National education writer and frequent critic of charter schools Diane Ravitch wrote in a Detroit News op-ed that she blames free-market reforms and charter schools for the problems in Detroit’s public school system.

Ravitch doesn’t dispute that the Detroit public school district is the worst urban school district in the country. The National Assessment of Education Progress has found it to be the nation’s worst in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015. Those reports are issued biannually.

Ravitch wrote: “Students should have a program that includes physical education and sports teams, dance, chorus, robotics, dramatics, videography, and other opportunities for intellectual and social development. That is what the best suburban communities want for their children. That’s what will work for the children of Detroit and the rest of Michigan.”

ForTheRecord says: Charter school opponents sometimes go to unusual lengths to find shortcomings. The vast majority of public charter schools in Detroit don’t offer sports programs, which was one item on Ravitch’s list of knocks against charters.

Instead, in a city where the vast majority of district schools fail to give students the education they need, most Detroit charters focus solely on academics, and apparently with some success.

The 2015 report by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that charter students in the city outperformed their peers, getting the equivalent of a few weeks to several months of additional learning in reading and math for every year spent in a Detroit charter school instead of a district school.

CREDO went further and said that Detroit’s charter schools should serve as a model for the rest of the country.

Meanwhile, there are a handful of Detroit’s conventional public schools that have been listed as the worst academic performers in the state for years, failing even when their scores are adjusted to account for socioeconomic factors.

The district’s Detroit Ford High School has been on the state’s list since 2010, and in 2011 its management was removed from the Detroit school district and placed under an “Education Achievement Authority” commission appointed by the Governor.. The school is still open — despite state and federal laws that were supposed to see such schools closed — and after five years under the Education Achievement Authority is now back under the control of the Detroit school district this year. Just 6.4 percent of Detroit Ford High School students who took the 2017 SAT tests were deemed “college ready.”

However, Detroit Ford High School’s boys basketball team did win the Class B state championship in 2016 and was runner-up in 2015.

Editor's note: This article was changed to include more details of the Education Achievement Authority's involvement.

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.