Michigan’s Department of Education requires 112 underperforming public schools in 54 state districts to enter into agreements with the state to improve student academic performance.
The list includes 25 schools from Detroit Public Schools Community District, 10 from Lansing Public Schools, seven from Flint Community Schools, five from Saginaw School District, five from Benton Harbor Area Schools, three from Grand Rapids Public Schools, and two from Ypsilanti Community Schools.
More than a third of the schools on the list were charter schools, including two of the three schools in the Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System.
The total is a significant increase from the 86 schools identified in 2017-18, the last time government schools identified schools for so-called twinning agreements.
“What we are witnessing is the result of years of underfunding for Michigan students, educators and educational institutions, resulting teacher shortages and a once-in-a-century pandemic,” said State Superintendent Michael Rice in a statement released by the Department of Education.
“Incomplete learning during the pandemic has resulted in generally lower, average student scores on the state’s M-STEP assessments, locally administered benchmark assessments, and national NAEP assessments.”
The numbers prove that.
Of the third-graders from Michigan who took the M-STEP last spring, 41.6 achieved proficiency or better in English, down 3.5 percentage points from 2019, when the test was last administered before the pandemic.
In math, it was 41.5 percent, down 5.2 percentage points from 2019.
The schools identified for partnership arrangements in previous years “have been hardest hit by the pandemic, and not just academically,” Katharine Strunk, director of the Michigan State University Education Policy Innovation Collaborative, also known as EPIC, told the ongoing The affiliate program carried out reviews.
“These are the high minority urban districts, right? So they were the ones with the highest death rates, the highest number of cases, the highest incomes and economic losses because of the pandemic,” she said. “We know that all of this is part of what we call school quality, even though it’s about so much more than the school or the district.”
This is one of the reasons why some of the schools identified in previous years appear again on the list of partner schools.
In 2018, Grand Rapids Public Schools signed an agreement with the state promising changes to Alger Middle School: improve student and teacher attendance, reduce suspensions, better faculty training.
The school is on the list again this year.
“I think our focus is really on how we can continue to deepen our practices related to our strategic plan, which will help us address why we’re on the list,” said Brandy Lovelady Mitchell, District Assistant Superintendent for Preschool – 12 Learning and Leadership, “and continuing to build capacity in our teaching leadership practices as we evolve.”
Specific strategies include “continued amplification of the voice of scholars, continued engagement with our families and community partners, and duplication of teaching practices that we know but are helping us move the needle,” she said.
Flint entered into a partnership agreement in 2018 covering 12 schools. Five of them are not on the list this year. The other seven — Brownell STEM Academy, Eisenhower School, Freeman School, Holmes STEM Middle School Academy, Nonecut Elementary School, Pierce Scholl, and Potter School — are in for the second time.
Superintendent Kevelin Jones said in a statement that the district “remains committed to the academic achievement of our students and the school community” and is reviewing the report.
“Over the past few months, the district has worked with the Board of Education to implement an improved curriculum, create spaces conducive to learning, and develop programs that support the whole child. We look forward to working with the MDE to create a plan that best meets the needs of our school community,” he said.
Districts that enter into partnership plans are asked to complete three-year improvement plans by next spring and receive government support in the form of expertise and limited additional money.
Another 461 schools across the state have been flagged for various levels of government intervention.
Saginaw and Jackson County officials did not respond to requests for comment.
The full list of partner schools can be found here.