The Flint Journal reports that members of a newly formed group called Flint Area Congregations Together (FACT) recently traveled to California, Virginia and New York looking for successful schools in areas with demographics similar Flint. While the aim is noble, the group could learn from a number of high-performing schools right at home in Flint.
Just 66 percent of Flint public school fourth-graders are deemed "proficient" in reading according to the Michigan Department of Education. In contrast, 91 percent of fourth-graders at the district's Coolidge Elementary School and 94 percent of those at St. Paul Lutheran School met or exceeded state reading standards.
In math, some charter public schools are showing the way: 95 percent of fourth-graders at Linden Charter Academy are rated proficient in math, and 92 percent at the International Academy of Flint. All the fourth-graders at St. Paul Lutheran are proficient in math.
At the high school level, only 15 percent of 11th graders in Flint public schools met state standards in math and only 37 percent in reading. The International Academy of Flint produces scores nearly double these, and at Flint Powers Catholic High School, 52 percent of 11th graders are rated proficient in math and 90 percent in reading. ACT scores at these two schools are 12 and 36 percent higher, respectively, than the district average.
These schools also spend much less than the $14,623 per pupil at the city's conventional public schools (2008-2009 figures). The International Academy spent $8,182 per pupil (44 percent less that the district) and Linden Charter $9,880 (33 percent less). Tuition at St. Paul Lutheran School ranges from $2,647 to $3,900 per student for kindergarten through 8th grade, and Flint Powers Catholic High School charges between $7,500 and $8,200. Both rely to some degree on other financial sources, but total costs are still significantly lower than Flint's.
The quickest way to improve educational prospects for students in the city is by giving them access to these high-performing schools and creating more like them. Sadly, significant legislative and political barriers stand in the way. Still, it's heartening that would-be Flint reformers need not travel to distant places to find successful models for improving the educational (and life) prospects of the city's children.