News Story

Report Ranks Schools By Lowest Resident Enrollment, Minus Key Fact

How good are the schools abandoned by parents who use public school choice?

Recent reports on the MLive news site ranked the Michigan public school districts whose enrollment has been most affected by public school choice and charter schools.

MLive ranked the districts based on the percentage of public schoolchildren who live with a school district’s jurisdiction and are attending its schools, based on 2017 enrollment data. The number who weren’t attending the district’s schools was used as an indicator of how many were instead enrolled in a charter school or another district.

What MLive did not report was the academic performance of districts from which many students had left.

According to the MLive enrollment ranking system, the 10 school districts with the lowest percentage of resident schoolchildren attending its schools operated a total of 127 school buildings. Of these, 84 received a F grade on the most recent edition of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s public school report card, published in 2016.

This report card factors in the socioeconomic background of student bodies when measuring how much learning is advanced by the school children attend, rather than how high or low their starting point may have been.

Two out of every three schools within those 10 low-resident enrollment school districts were failing when compared to Michigan schools whose student bodies have similar socioeconomic backgrounds.

The school districts with the highest percentage of resident schoolchildren attending their own schools operated a combined 38 schools, of which just three received an F on the same socioeconomically adjusted report card.

The MLive data appears to support the theory that school choice affords the greatest benefits to children whose parents would otherwise have to see them attend the possibly substandard public school to which they are assigned.

A Mackinac Center 2013 study on school choice had similar findings.

“This study [2013] finds that students enter districts that have higher graduation rates and higher test scores,” said Ben DeGrow, director of education policy at the Mackinac Center.