LANSING, Mich. — Half of the schools on Michigan’s new list of low-performing public schools are in Detroit but cannot be closed by the state until 2019 at the earliest, Gov. Rick Snyder’s office said Thursday, angering some Republican lawmakers and school-choice advocates.
The announcement came in conjunction with the release of the bottom 5 percent list , which is legally required but had not been updated in two years because of a switch in the state’s standardized test.
The Snyder administration has said state-ordered school closures, an unused option allowed for under a 2009 law, could be coming for chronically under-performing schools where other forms of intervention have not worked. The new list — based on 2015 test scores — will be reviewed along with a list using 2016 results, due in the fall, and older rankings.
The decision to effectively pardon Detroit schools for three years is based on an interpretation of the recent state financial bailout that created a new, debt-free Detroit district no longer managed by the state. The law orders the closure of any traditional or independent charter school in Detroit that is among the lowest-achieving 5 percent of schools statewide for the preceding three years.
“Because Detroit is a new school district, schools that were failing under the former district can’t be closed by the School Reform Office,” said Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton. “The governor is responsible for executing the law as he reads and understands it, and that’s how he reads and understands this section of law.”
GOP leaders in the Republican-led Legislature and charter school groups criticized Snyder’s decision.
House Speaker Kevin Cotter of Mt. Pleasant called it a “gross misreading.”
“As a simple matter of common sense, it cannot be said with a straight face that the Legislature intended for the worst-of-the-worst schools in Detroit to remain open,” he said. “This mistaken interpretation would also require failing charter public schools to be closed while failing traditional public schools are allowed to persist and drag down class after class of Detroit students, which is an absurd conclusion.”
The list published Tuesday has 124 schools, including 116 that remain open and were not closed by their district or their charter authorizer or board.
Of the 116, 47 are in the Detroit district and 11 are Detroit schools being run by the Education Achievement Authority — a turnaround entity that Snyder created after he took office. The EAA will dissolve next year, and its schools will return to the 46,000-student district.
The rankings are based on test results, students’ improvement over time, and the gap between the best and worst pupils.
Also Thursday, School Reform Officer Natasha Baker freed seven “priority” schools from state intervention. They formerly were in the bottom 5 percent but showed improvement.
Some were released earlier than normal because of “rapid and sustained” gains, staying above the 15th percentile for two consecutive years, she said.
A school group that recently sounded alarms about potential state-ordered school closures said underperforming schools know they need to improve.
“In some cases, collaborating with the state is appropriate, as long as local districts are allowed to maintain control of their schools while working to get back on track,” said Chris Wigent, executive director of the Michigan Association of School Administrators.
Snyder has sought to downplay talk of imminent school closures while not ruling them out in the future, telling The Associated Press last week that hopefully local and state officials can work collaboratively to improve low-ranking schools.
Bottom 5 percent of schools: http://bit.ly/2bYxJqy