You can’t fault Michigan for trying. And then
trying some more. To heal the ailing Detroit Public Schools, leaders of the Wolverine State have created an emergency
financial manager, have renegotiated the teacher contract, have shuttered
failing schools, and have pledged to convert nearly half of its high schools to
charters. Despite all this, DPS has remained at death’s door. But an ambitious
and experimental new treatment, announced on Monday by Governor Rick Snyder
(and backed by Arne Duncan) might well provide some relief. The new plan
(which, if effective in the Motor City, will expand out to other failing
schools and districts in the state) creates a “recovery school district” of
sorts for Motown’s bottom 5 percent of schools. This new mini-district, called
the Education Achievement System, will give its schools’ principals the
authority to hand-pick their teachers and handle their own budgets, as well as
increase total instruction time for students. The new district (along with all Detroit public schools)
will be under the purview of DPS emergency manager Roy Roberts and a small
appointed committee. Much like what’s in place for New Orleans’s RSD, EAS schools will be
required to stay in the system for at least five years, at which point improved
schools can choose to remain with EAS, return to DPS, or convert to an
independent charter. Further, the initiative will expand the lauded Kalamazoo
Promise program, a privately-funded scholarship that will foot the bill for
two years of post-secondary education for all DPS graduates. Details about the
initiative remain scarce—including how the district plans to recruit the talent
needed to staff schools in the EAS. But it’s an encouraging sign that the Motor City
may have some life left after all.
|Click to listen to commentary on Synder's reform plan from the Education Gadfly Show podcast
“Rick Snyder to announce sweeping DPS reforms Monday,” by
David Jesse, Chastity Pratt Dawsey, and Chris Christoff, Detroit Free Press,
June 19, 2011.
“New hope for state's hopeless schools,” The Detroit News,
June 21, 2011.
“Plan aims to revitalize Detroit schools,” The Associated
Press, June 20, 2011.
“Detroit Announces New Authority For Failing Schools,” by
Joy Resmovits, The Huffington Post, June 20, 2011.