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Pro-school choice expert gives Michigan’s approach a failing grade

Jan 24, 2018

Redford High School is a Detroit public school that closed in 2007.
Credit Thomas Hawk / FLICKR - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

This week is National School Choice Week. But is school choice in Michigan cause for celebration?

Gary Miron is a professor of evaluation, measurement and research at Western Michigan University. He evaluates school choice programs and other educational reforms nationally and internationally. He joined Stateside to discuss Michigan’s school choice program.

Listen to the full conversation above, or read highlights below

Does school choice increase segregation in schools?

“We studied this in great detail nationally in 2010, and there was a concern prior to school choice, including charter school reforms, that this would be a vehicle for white flight as some call it. We found evidence that supports that. But what was equally surprising was that minority flight is just as great…Segregation by race is happening in both directions…And it’s also fueled by how schools market themselves.”

How does Michigan’s current school choice model hurt urban schools?

“What we’re seeing in our urban schools is slowly the [number of students] are going down. When there’s competition, it’s really hard on those schools who end up having empty seats and half empty schools.

“Suburban Detroit schools are doing better because they can still fill their places through the schools of choice program, pulling students out of the urban areas, but our urban schools are suffering. First, they’re losing students. Second, they have fewer teachers left.”

“As numbers go down each year, the concentrations of children in poverty go up, the concentration of children with disabilities goes up in those urban schools. Because of choice programs, those urban schools will end up with the students that are most costly to educate.”

What should the top priorities be for school choice?

“They need to look at school choice as a policy tool, as a tool that we can design to pursue the publicly established outcomes that we desire as a society.

“Right now, the two things that schools of choice are achieving in our state: they’re accelerating segregation by race, by class, by special education status, and by language of instruction; they’re also being used as a vehicle for privatization.

“These are things that weren’t articulated in the policy intent, but those are the objectives being served right now, and we need to realign that and redesign school choice to serve the public good.”

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