A Better Choice, Less Than a Mile Away

Despite student and parent protests, Detroit Public Schools closed Southwestern High School this year because of its poor academic and attendance track record.

The Mackinac Center's new high school report card, which attempts to account for socioeconomic factors as well as student academic performance, supports the closure decision: Southwestern High School received an 'F' on the high school report card, and was the 20th lowest-scoring high school in the entire state of Michigan. 

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Southwestern students are, understandably, apprehensive about where to go to school in the fall. Some are concerned about safety at Western International High School, a DPS school that has offered to take nearly 600 Southwestern students.

Western International, at least when it comes to student academic performance, is a mediocre option. Though better than Southwestern, Western International scored a 'C' on the Mackinac Center's report card, meaning that the school does little to improve student academic performance beyond what would be expected.

A better option might be just down the street. Just a couple blocks east from Southwestern on Waterman Street is Cesar Chavez High School, a public charter school that received an 'A' on the Mackinac Center's report card. In fact, Cesar Chavez is the second highest-scoring high school in the entire state and the top performing city high school.

Some might be quick to suggest that Cesar Chavez received a higher score because it serves fewer students from low-income backgrounds, or because it is a selective school. Neither statement is true. The school offers open enrollment, and more than 95 percent of Cesar Chavez's students come from low-income backgrounds (the number of students in a school who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches), compared to 69 percent at Southwestern.

Cesar Chavez is a smaller school than Southwestern, and it would be unreasonable to suggest that every displaced student could find a spot at the school. But it is a much better nearby option, and it could make all the difference for some students.

Several other high schools near Southwestern also scored well on the Mackinac Center's report card. A complete list of high schools and their scores is available here.

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