Saturday, January 28, 2017

Closing Detroit Schools Would Create 'Education Deserts,' Says Teachers Union
By Khalil AlHajal |
January 23, 2017 at 10:09 PM

DETROIT -- School district officials on Monday announced plans to invite educators from Massachusetts, Indiana and Tennessee to a summit on improving education after the state last week named 25 poor-performing Detroit schools that could be forced to shut down.

Meanwhile, a charter schools group is calling for all 38 Michigan schools on the list of chronically poor performers to be shut down, and a Detroit teachers union warned that shuttering the schools could create "education deserts" in the city.

A Detroit elementary school once ranked by a Michigan think tank as the top school in the state could be shut down in June.

Detroit Public Schools Community District Interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather said the education improvement summit will take place Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 in an effort to launch an "all hands on deck" approach to exploring "innovative methods that have proven results."

"Our students are worth fighting for and they deserve high quality schools," Meriweather said in a statement. "At DPSCD we are singularly focused on improvement, and not afraid to hold ourselves accountable."

Officials from Indianapolis Public Schools in Indiana, Lawrence Public Schools and Springfield Public Schools in Massachusetts and Shelby County Schools in Tennessee are being invited.

Veronica Conforme, chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority, a state reform entity that took over Detroit's 15 lowest performing schools in 2012, said lessons the experimental district has learned since its established will contribute to the summit.

"There have been many lessons learned about working with priority schools at the EAA," she said.

"After consistent implementation of key initiatives, we are starting to see improved student outcomes. This lays a good foundation as we come together with DPSCD and create momentum to implement innovative strategies that will further accelerate student learning."

Of the 38 chronically failing Michigan schools named last week, 25 are in Detroit, including 16 in the traditional public district, eight in the EAA, and one charter school.

Search for your school's ranking in Michigan's academic performance list

The Great Lakes Education Project, which advocates for charter schools, on Monday called for closure of all 38.

"Enough is enough, and we call on Natasha Baker and the State Reform Office to close these 'worst of the worst' schools," the group's executive director Gary Naeyaert in a statement.

"The simple fact is these schools are failing our kids and their families deserve better. Allowing schools to fail our kids cannot continue. If the SRO exercises the 'unreasonable hardship' exemption to avoid closing any of these schools, we expect them to implement dramatic restructuring to give these students a chance at a successful future."

If the State Reform Office determines that closing a listed school would create "unreasonable hardship," it could appoint a CEO to oversee the school, change the school's redesign plan or place the school into the State School Reform District.

Detroit Federation of Teachers President Ivy Bailey said Monday that shuttering the schools would create a major burden for students and parents in large swaths of the city.

"Shuttering schools, displacing students and burdening parents aren't the way to improve public education in Michigan," she said.

"... These schools have been sapped of resources for far too long. For more than a decade, educators and school support staff have been raising their voices to no avail about the deplorable school conditions, out-of-date textbooks and lack of resources. And now, after finally getting local control back, we are being told that more than 20 of our schools could be closed. This is unacceptable and unfair to our students."

A locally elected school board had its power restored earlier this month after years of state control.

"Instead of creating education deserts, Michigan should be creating neighborhood public schools that provide the resources and supports all kids need to do well," Bailey said.

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