News Story

State Can’t Name Any School Closed for Poor Performance

But applies double-standard to charters

As charter public school authorizers await details of sanctions State Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Flanagan has threatened for poorly performing charter schools, choice advocates are asking why the state doesn't subject conventional public schools to the same accountability. Flanagan has threatened to suspend charter school authorizers’ ability to create more schools if their current ones don't meet performance standards.

The Michigan Association of Public School Academies and Great Lakes Education Project claim that no conventional school has ever been shut down for poor academic performance, an allegation that may be hard to verify. On the other side, top state education officials have said that conventional schools have been closed for academic reasons, but can offer no example to back up their claims, saying that only the affected school districts really know why one of their schools was closed.

In contrast, some charter school authorizers have closed charter schools due to students' poor academic progress. This is cited as an example of how charter schools are actually held more accountable than conventional public schools.

Jared Burkhart, executive director of the Michigan Council of Charter School Authorizers, recently reported that Michigan Department of Education Deputy Superintendent of Education Services Venessa Keesler said at a meeting that many conventional public schools have been closed due to academic performance.

“When pushed back upon she could not provide the actual number or any kind of document to look up what that number could be,” Burkhart said in an email.

MDE spokesman Martin Ackley said 66 schools that were deemed low performing academically by the MDE have closed since 2010.

“Venessa’s comments were considering that, even though local districts don’t report to MDE the reasons why they close schools, it is very likely that some of the 66 Priority Schools that have been closed was due to their poor academic performance,” Ackley said.

Over the past decade many public schools have been closed by districts due to declines in the number of school-aged children in an area. The Michigan Department of Education says when a district closes a school, it is not required to give a reason.

“It would be very difficult for GLEP to claim that no traditional school has ever been closed for academic reasons,” Ackley said. “They wouldn’t know for certain that none were closed for academic reasons. The only people who would know definitively would be those at the local school districts themselves.”

Buddy Moorehouse, spokesman for the Michigan Association of Public School Academies, said no school district has ever been on record for saying a conventional school has been closed for academic reasons. He said the burden is on the MDE to prove otherwise.

“Our contention has never been challenged,” Moorehouse said. “They can’t just say it might have been shut down for academic reasons. There has never been any proof that has ever happened.”

Moorehouse said when the Race to the Top legislation passed in 2009, it included a provision that allowed for the closure of poor-performing public schools (charter and conventional).

The Michigan Association of Public School Academies maintains the state superintendent doesn’t have sole authority to close a school, but can initiate the process, and does play a major role in the process.

“So, if Flanagan wanted to close a traditional public school, he would be the catalyst to make that happen,” Moorehouse said.

In 2013, GLEP called for the closing of 20 “chronically failing schools.” Those 20 schools had been on the state’s low-performing watch list for each of the previous four years.

GLEP maintains that when conventional public schools have been closed, it was due to reasons such as low enrollment or finances, not academics.


See also:

Charter School Groups Warns State Superintendent

Challenging the Rhetoric in the War on Charter Schools

Conventional Schools in Anti-Charter Legislator's District Have Little to Brag About

A Democrat's Reasons For Supporting School Choice