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state school reform office

The Washington Writer's Academy in Kalamazoo
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Lawyers say they’ve agreed to a broad framework to settle lawsuits against the state’s School Reform Office. The office caused controversy when it mailed letters to thousands of parents earlier this year, saying their child’s school was at risk of closing because of “academic failure for many years.”

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

This week, attorneys representing four Michigan school districts will argue that the state overstepped its bounds when it threatened to close three dozen low-performing schools earlier this year.

Durfee Elementary-Middle School in Northwest Detroit
Jenna Belevender

Gov. Rick Snyder has reversed course and moved Michigan's school turnaround office back to a state department over which he has no direct control.

The move Friday comes two years after Snyder transferred the School Reform Office from the Department of Education - whose leader is hired by elected members of the state Board of Education - to the Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

You cannot tell if Michigan’s School Reform Officer Natasha Baker was prepared to recommend closing any of the 38 schools on the state’s lowest performing school’s list. That information was redacted from public documents released this week by the state, following a March 3 request filed by Michigan Radio under the Freedom of Information Act.

test with bubble answers
User Alberto G. / Creative Commons / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Detroit Public Schools Community District starts giving students the M-STEP test this week. That’s the annual statewide test used to measure student achievement.

But more than 400 Detroit parents have opted for their kids to sit out the test, because they’re upset that the state uses that data to justify closing schools.

The unusually large number of opt-outs comes mostly as a result of a campaign organized by the Detroit Parent Network.

CEO Sharlonda Buckman says Detroit parents have come to feel “extremely disrespected” by state education officials.

A long table surrounded by red chairs in a school classroom.
BES Photos / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

What’s up is down and what’s down is up when it comes to ranking schools in Michigan.

Dozens of schools found they dropped 50 points in the state rankings while others soared from near the bottom to near top of the list.

Erin Einhorn, a reporter with Chalkbeat, joined Stateside to try to make sense of this rollercoaster ride for Michigan's school rankings. 

Empty classroom.
Kevin Wong / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

In January, the state’s School Reform Office sent a warning letter directly to parents at 38 low-performing schools. The letter told parents their child’s school was at risk of closing by the end of June “due to academic failure for many years” and they would get an update by March.

The schools on this list scored in the bottom 5% on state standardized tests for three consecutive years.

Paul Ryan
Gage Skidmore / Creative Commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Republican US House leaders on Friday withdrew their bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the bill from the floor after it was clear the measure would not have enough votes to pass. This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry talk about whether Gov. Rick Snyder and Healthy Michigan advocates can breath a sigh of relief.

DPSCD Superintendent Alycia Meriweather and district staff announce new schools programs in March 2016.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools Community District is following through on its threat to sue the state School Reform Office, even after the state has largely backed off plans to close some of the state’s lowest-performing schools this year.

DPSCD had 16 schools on the SSRO’s “next level accountability” list, which also included eight schools in the state-run Education Achievement Authority. EAA schools will join DPSCD after the EAA winds down in June.

East Detroit school and community officials blasted Jensen's appointment in June. They eventually settled on a power-sharing arrangment that limited Jensen's authority.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

An experimental and contentious turnaround effort in the East Detroit Public Schools is coming to an end, as state-appointed CEO Gary Jensen announced Monday he will step down early next month.

The state school reform office appointed Jensen, a former Michigan Principal of the Year, as CEO of four low-performing East Detroit schools last June. The school system is located in Eastpointe, a small suburb just north of Detroit.

He was supposed to have broad powers to make sweeping changes to boost academic performance.

young kids playing with toys on floor
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The heads of most of the 38 schools facing closure for low academic performance are drafting agreements that would allow the schools to stay open and collaborate with the state.

The state offered the agreements as a sort of olive branch after major backlash to the closure announcements in late January.

Inside the Michigan Senate
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Plans to overhaul how Michigan deals with struggling schools will see continued discussion this week in a state Senate committee.

 

State lawmakers have been working for weeks to overhaul how Michigan deals with struggling schools. The committee is currently trying to find the best ways to judge student performance, and grade schools.

 

chairs stacked on a desk in a classroom
Flickr user janine / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A Republican-backed bill to rollback Michigan's income tax died on the floor of the state House early Thursday morning. This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry talk about fallout from the bill's failure, including a leadership change in Lansing.

We're also talking about the Trump administration's withdrawal of Obama-era guidance on transgender students' rights in schools, the state's delay on announcing which low-performing schools will be closed in the fall, and a new "fake news" course at the University of Michigan.

The Washington Writer's Academy in Kalamazoo
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Lawyers for Saginaw and Kalamazoo school districts say the state does not have the authority to close four of their low-performing schools.

The complaint was filed late Wednesday on behalf of the two school districts and more than a dozen parents. They argue the governor violated the state constitution when he signed an executive order in 2015 moving the School Reform Office into a department under his control, instead of the state superintendent and the education department.

The office is considering closing 38 schools.

Parents, students and community activists holding signs at a press conference in front of Osborn High School in Detroit.
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

In a letter to Governor Rick Snyder, Michigan's Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives asked that he stop the Michigan School Reform Office from closing 38 schools.

U.S. Reps. John Conyers, Debbie Dingell, Dan Kildee, Brenda Lawrence, and Sander Levin requested that the governor not close any schools without input and support from local communities.

The representatives cited the negative impacts of school closings, such as the burdens placed on working families that may face longer commutes.

Parents, students and community activists holding signs at a press conference in front of Osborn High School in Detroit.
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

Detroit parents and students want the state to hear from them before closing their schools.

Twenty-five public schools in Detroit could be shut down for having poor test scores.

The state School Reform Office, which released the list of schools that might close, has yet to meet with parents or students from these schools.

Terry Whitfield is with 482 Forward, a citywide network of community organizations, schools groups and church groups.

He says the state needs input from the people most affected by the possible school closings.

The Washington Writer's Academy in Kalamazoo
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Kalamazoo school board will sue the state to try to stop Michigan’s School Reform Office from closing two of its schools. The board announced Thursday it’s joining with Saginaw schools to file the lawsuit early next week.

Thirty eight schools across the state are at risk of closure because of poor performance on state standardized tests. School officials don’t think the state has the authority to close schools and they say scattering students won’t help academic achievement.

Empty classroom
Motown31 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Michigan Board of Education wants Governor Snyder's School Reform Office to call off closing any schools this fall. It joins a growing chorus of protest by parents and school administrators against possible school closures.

Last month the School Reform Office announced that 38 schools are at risk of closure because of persistently low standardized test scores. The office said it was reviewing whether a closing would create "unreasonable hardship" before it reaches a final decision on closing a school.

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

At a meeting with Detroit parents and school administrators earlier this week, one of the governor's advisors told the crowd "there's no way in the world" the state will close 38 failing schools this year.

Flickr user Frank Juarez/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

One of Governor Snyder’s key advisors says “there’s no way in the world” the state will close 38 “failing” schools this year.

That’s what Rich Baird told the crowd at a Detroit meeting about potential school closures Monday night.

The State School Reform Office has sent letters to parents at 38 schools across the state, warning they could be shut down because of persistently low test scores. 25 of those schools are in Detroit.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The state office charged with possibly closing some Michigan schools for poor performance is midway through a critical review of some three dozen schools.

The Michigan School Reform Office is spending the next few weeks studying whether schools like Saginaw High School should close.    They’ll be at the school Monday morning.    

Saginaw school district leaders are considering going to court to fight any potential move by the state to close their schools.  

State School Reform officer Natasha Baker says she’s not paying attention to the potential legal challenge.

Flickr user Frank Juarez / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

As the state School Reform Office moves closer to potentially closing multiple schools across Michigan, a bill ending the law is being hotly debated in the Legislature.

Republican Senator and chair of the Senate Education Committee, Phil Pavlov, is sponsoring a bill that would repeal the law allowing the SRO to close consistently low performing schools.

During last week’s meeting about the new bill, the School Reform Office was criticized by school administrators and parents. They said there is not a consistent method for measuring school progress and quality.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools Community District is prepared to sue the state if it moves ahead on its threat to shut down some low-performing schools.

The district’s school board approved the potential lawsuit at a meeting Wednesday night.

DPSCD has 16 schools that the State School Reform Office has named persistently low-performing, and at risk for closure after this school year.

But the district says the state shouldn’t shut those schools down. And it’s prepared to go to court to stop it.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The community held a pep rally to support Muskegon Heights students Monday afternoon.

The high school is on a list of 38 poorly performing schools that could face closure.

Listen: We Live Here - A neighborhood school on the brink of closure

Five years ago, an emergency manager converted Muskegon Heights into a charter school district to salvage it. Now it’s academics, not finances, that threaten the school’s existence.

There are three smaller high schools on the larger Osborn High School campus. All three face potential closure because of low test scores.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

As the state decides which schools it’s deemed “failing” will close, students, parents and staff at some Detroit schools on the chopping block are rallying for them to stay open.

That includes Osborn High School, which is actually three smaller schools on one campus. All three could be shut down at the end of this school year because of persistently low test scores.

But many in the Osborn community say that’s a bad idea for a whole variety of reasons. Some of them explained as they rallied outside the school on a brutally cold Friday.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

State officials who announced the potential closure of 38 “priority” schools across the state are now visiting those schools. The schools on this list scored in the bottom 5% on state standardized tests for three consecutive years.

bottom of chalkboard, with an eraser and chalk sitting on the ledge
User alkruse24 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Lawmakers are considering a repeal of a law that allows the state to shut down low-performing schools.

The so-called “failing schools law” determines Michigan’s worst-performing schools based on their test scores. Schools on the list for too long could be closed for good.

Although many were in favor of getting rid of the “failing schools law,” some lawmakers say they’re concerned about how schools would be held accountable without the law.

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

The Michigan School Reform/Redesign Office recently released its latest list of schools that are under-performing. There are 38 schools on this year's list that could be closed, mostly in Detroit. This Week in Michigan Politics, Morning Edition host Doug Tribou and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry talk about whether Detroit's school district would be able to survive such a large round of closures.

They also discuss what role U.S. Secretary of Education nominee Betsy Devos plays in the state's school closure discussion, concerns over President Donald Trump's order to freeze all grant programs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and a move to bring new voting machines to Michigan.

Detroit school leaders point to Coleman A. Young Elementary School as a successful turnarond effort led from within the district.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit school leaders say they’re ready to take on the task of transforming some of the state’s lowest-performing schools.

But first, they’re inviting counterparts from around the country to a “learning summit” next week, to discuss and formulate a broader school turnaround strategy.

MOTOWN31 / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

On Friday, Michiganders learned that state officials are preparing to shut down as many as 38 under-performing schools in Michigan. Twenty-five of those schools are in Detroit.

What, if anything, could keep the School Reform Office from closing the schools? And how should we, as a state, deal with schools that are turning out unprepared students?

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