Groups Oppose Prospects of School Closures in Michigan

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

A coalition of public school groups in Michigan recently stated that they were “considering all options” in order to keep failing schools in the state from facing closure next year.

The groups said that the state School Reform Office stated that they would look at the most recent three years of state standardized testing data when determining whether to close failing schools. However, the groups say that doing so is not fair because the assessment had changed each year during that time period.

While the MEAP test was administered in 2013-14, it was replaced the following year by the M-STEP, which was based on more rigorous standards. The M-STEP was offered online for the first time the next year.

“It’s apples, oranges and grapes,” Chris Wigent, executive director of the Michigan Association of School Administrators, said during a roundtable discussion with reporters. “It’s just nothing that you can put together to try to have a thread that goes through there to give you any accurate assessment of student achievement.”

The state has not yet decided whether to close any schools. If a school were to be shut down by the SRO, it would be the first time the office has done so since it had been created in 2010, writes Brian McVicar for MLive.com.

The Michigan State Board of Education’s legislative committee issued a statement earlier in the week, making a push for the SRO to hold community meetings so that the taxpayers can be informed of any plans for their schools. “We are deeply concerned about the lack of transparency and community involvement in this process,” the statement said.

The SRO was moved by Governor Rick Snyder in 2015 from the Michigan Department of Education, which reports to the elected state Board of Education, to DTMB, which reports to the Governor, reports David Eggert for The Seattle Times.

If the SRO were to consider a school closure, a list of schools would be provided to the office that include schools ranked in the bottom 5% of schools across the state for the last three years. However, additional years of data will also be considered.

Meanwhile, the school groups said they were caught off guard by the idea of school closures, saying that they were previously told by the Michigan Department of Education that schools would not be punished for student performance on the M-STEP test administered last spring. The department had said that three years of data from the exam, which has only been administered twice so far, would be collected.

However, the SRO appears to have other plans. Aside from closing a school, the SRO has the option to put a failing school under the control of a CEO or in the state’s reform district.

Don Wotruba, executive director of the Michigan Association of School Boards, said the prospect of school closures has raised some concerns among parents. He said many are wondering if they should pull their children out of the school now, while others suggest that closing a school would not result in an improvement to educational outcomes for students.

Kristin Decarr

Kristin Decarr

Kristin Decarr

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