Study: Worst schools stay open

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Most low-performing public schools — including charter and conventional schools in Michigan — rarely improve and rarely close, according to a Detroit Free Press report on a new national study.

Michigan was among 10 states studied by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization, for its report titled “Are Bad Schools Immortal?”

The study found that "low performance is remarkably stubborn" in Michigan, the Free Press reported, despite provisions in the federal No Child Left Behind Act that allow school closure as a consequence for poor performance.

In 2003-04, about 37 percent of Michigan's charter schools were designated as low-performing on state tests, compared to 7 percent of traditional public schools, the Free Press reported. In 2008-09, among the previously identified charters, 75 percent were still doing badly, while 10 percent had closed. Among low-performing conventional public schools, 90 percent still lagged behind and 5 percent had closed.

The Free Press said the study cited two Michigan schools as evidence that the charter sector was "somewhat" more successful at closing weak schools. Tri-Valley Academy of Arts and Academics in Muskegon was closed in 2008, while A.L. Holmes Elementary in Detroit Public Schools was identified as "persistently lowest-achieving” despite an overhaul in 2005-2006.

Kisha Verdusco, a spokeswoman for DPS, told the Free Press that Holmes is now operating under a federal school improvement grant with a new principal, literacy coach and “reconstituted” staff.

Detroit Free Press, “Poor Michigan schools staying open, study finds,” Dec. 15, 2010

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “New Research Suggests 'Reforming' Rather Than Closing Failing Schools a Forlorn Hope,” March 23, 2010