DETROIT - Four private education management firms will work to turn around what one administrator called "shameful" achievement records at 17 Detroit high schools, Detroit area media reported.

The companies are Edison Learning and Institute for Achievement, both based in New York, Ed Works, based in Cincinnati, and the Model Secondary Schools Project, based in Washington, according to The Detroit News. Each has received a multiyear, "several- million dollar" contract from Detroit Public Schools, The News reported, paid for with federal stimulus money.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, DPS chief academic and accountability officer, said that the most recent Michigan Merit Exam test scores for the 17 targeted schools were "abysmal" and "shameful," according to The News.

Robert Bobb, the district's emergency financial manager, said the schools' new principals should have authority to select the teaching staff, but Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson said the union contract does not give principals that authority, The News reported.

In related news, the DFT has charged that 397 layoff notices sent to teachers violate the teacher contract because they were issued too near the end of the school year, according to the Detroit Free Press. The union called on the district to rescind the notices or face a lawsuit, the Free Press reported.

The Detroit News, "DPS enlists private firms to overhaul 17 high schools," July 10, 2009

Detroit Free Press, "DPS teachers union says layoffs violate contract," July 9, 2009

The Detroit News, "DPS gives control of lagging schools to private sector," July 11, 2009

Michigan Education Report, "Accountability in education requires choice and competition," Sept. 21, 2001