Also in May, legislation to define what constitutes a "failing" school district-a definition that will trigger measures aimed at helping schools improve-passed the Michigan Senate Education Committee.

The package of bills, now headed to the full Senate for review, would define "priority schools" as the bottom 5 percent statewide as ranked by test scores, free lunch eligibility, dropout rates, graduation rates, and percentage of students reading at grade level.

Under the legislation, failing schools would be evaluated on their academics, management, and finances and told to follow an improvement plan created by a State Educational Improvement Board.

Corrective measures could include hiring consultants or management companies, placing the intermediate school district in charge of the smaller district's operations, or opening more charter schools within the district.