Michigan reform office plans to be aggressive about closing poorly performing schools

Michigan reform office plans to be aggressive about closing poorly performing schools

State says it will close schools with three consecutive years of very low test scores.

The State of Michigan’s School Reform Office is moving forward with an aggressive plan to close every school in the state that has posted extremely low test scores for the last three years.

Chalkbeat Detroit reports that the threat of closures is being considered even though the state's education department promised schools that last year’s test scores wouldn’t be held against them.

Michigan changed the exam it gives to students in 2015. It replaced the longstanding MEAP exam with the M-STEP, which is aligned with Common Core standards. Because of the testing change, the department said in an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education that it would hold off on penalizing schools for poor results until at least 2016.

Dan LaDue, assistant director for accountability for the School Reform Office, told Chalkbeat Detroit that the reform office plans to give notice to all Michigan schools that ranked in the bottom 5 percent on state exams in 2014, 2015, and 2016 that they will have to close in June. Exceptions would be granted only in circumstances where closing a school would pose an “unreasonable hardship” to students.

It was unclear how many schools would meet the criteria for being closed. More than 100 schools were on the bottom-five list in 2014, the last time it was published.

In a subsequent article, Natasha Baker, the director of the School Reform Office. told The Detroit Free Press that it was unlikely the state would close that many schools.

“It is nowhere near 100 schools,” Baker says.

Part of the reason for the rapid closure timeline is a new law that Gov. Rick Snyder signed in June as part of a $617 million rescue package for Detroit Public Schools. The law requires the reform office to close all Detroit schools that are on the bottom-five list for three years in a row, except for those where closure would cause an unreasonable hardship.

Snyder moved the reform office from the Michigan Department of Education to the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget so that he would have direct control over the efforts to improve the worst-performing schools.


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