Michigan May Close Over 100 Low-Performing Schools

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

More than 100 low-performing schools across the state of Michigan are set to close their doors by the end of the 2016-17 school year, according to the state School Reform Office.

School Reform Officer Natasha Baker said that a final decision on the issue would be made by the end of the year.

"The SRO is having August meetings with board presidents, authorizers and superintendents who have Priority Schools," Baker said Tuesday in an email. "During this time, we are discussing the role of the SRO (our mission, vision and values), state policies that establish our office, and the school building data relevant to student performance relevant to our audience."

Baker added that data will be put together by the end of the calendar year that will make it known which schools will face the next accountability level, which can in some cases mean closure. One of the determining factors can be poor standardized test results.

For a starting point, Baker said that data may be taken from the last three years, and the schools that fell in the bottom 5% of the state's former Michigan Educational Assessment Program test as of 2014 would be shut down. In addition, schools that were on the bottom in 2015 and 2016 on the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress would also be closed, writes Shawn Lewis for The Detroit News.

She went on to say that state officials would be using information made available from the 2016 M-STEP in addition to data from previous years in order to determine the next steps to take for failing schools. The M-STEP was created in an effort to align the state's standardized assessment more closely with Common Core state standards.

However, the decision to use M-STEP results comes after the Michigan Department of Education announced that the results of the exam that had been administered last spring would not be used in order to determine how a district was performing.

Baker said that although over 100 schools in the state were ranked in the bottom 5% in 2014, there are exceptions. She said that many of the schools on the 2014 list are not at risk of closure because data from multiple years are taken into consideration before a decision to close a school is made. She added that there are some schools in the state labeled as "chronically failing" because they continue to come in at the bottom of ranking for over a decade despite which test is used.

Information pertaining to how many schools will be on the list this year will be published on September 1.

State Rep. Adam Zemke, vice chairman of the House Education Committee, has argued that the School Reform Office is not transparent in their move.

"The decision to close an unknown number of schools, based on data from two entirely different tests without any clear, consistent and transparent processes to help schools improve, is completely irresponsible," Zemke said in a statement. "This will leave Michigan families in flux, wondering what their options will be for their children's education going forward."

Baker has stressed that school closure is not the only option, calling it a "multi-layered process that requires actions that will increase the expectations for public education here in Michigan."

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