Contents of this issue:
  • Philanthropist renews interest in Detroit schools
  • REPORT: Michigan's minority graduation rate a "hidden crisis"
  • Strong Las Vegas test scores extend Edison contract
  • High schools focus on advanced classes, leave basics behind
  • Kilpatrick makes concessions on district leadership amid criticism

DETROIT, Mich. — The controversy surrounding a proposed $200 million donation to build 15 new charter high schools in Detroit last year has not completely deterred philanthropist Robert Thompson from expressing interest in working with school leaders again, according to the Detroit News.

Thompson last fall announced his foundation would donate $200 million to the Detroit school system to create charter high schools, but revoked the offer after political interests statewide sparked tension and controversy between Thompson and education officials. Teachers' unions, state legislators, Detroit school officials and the governor were all players in Thompson's decision to withdraw his offer.

Several options exist for charity, said Thompson. "We're just looking at what we want to do. There are a lot of needy kids in Detroit. There are a lot of needy kids in other cities, too."

Thompson estimates his Thompson Foundation has already donated about $30 million to Detroit charities.

Detroit News, "Thompson gives Detroit a final shot at charters," Feb. 25, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Detroit School Establishment Turns Away $200 million Gift," October 2003

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Time to Stop Beating Up on Charter Schools," November 2002

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Impact of Limited School Choice on Public School Districts," July 2000

LANSING, Mich. — A study of graduation rates around the country labels Michigan as one of the top 10 worst states for graduating minorities, especially Hispanics, which is part of a "hidden crisis" for minorities nationwide.

The study, a joint effort between the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University and Washington-based Urban Institute, found that 68 percent of ninth-graders graduate within four years, but half of all minority students will drop out before graduation. In Michigan, one-third of Hispanic students graduate high school, while the overall graduation rate is around 74 percent.

The report also contends that Michigan overestimates its high school graduation rate by not breaking down statistics by race. "The dropout data in use today misleads the public into thinking that most students are earning diplomas," Christopher Swanson, research associate for the Urban Institute, told Booth Newspapers.

The other nine states in the report's top 10 are New York, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Ohio, Illinois and Connecticut.

Booth Newspapers, "Michigan flunks report on minority dropout rates," Feb. 26, 2004 107779382766800.xml

Results for America, "Losing Our Future," Feb. 25, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Graduation Rates an Imperfect Measure of School Excellence," January 2002

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Positive score results on standardized tests in the Clark County School District may boost Edison Schools Inc.'s reputation and land a contract extension with the district.

Edison, a publicly traded company, contracts with school districts around the country to manage anywhere from one to several schools to help improve management and student achievement. Recently, the company has faced criticism for instances of poor improvement by students under its control. But elementary school students in Clark County under the Edison contract improved at least 6 percentile points in each grade last year, helping to improve Edison's image in that area.

"There's a reason to be excited whenever a kid shows improvement," said Ken Lange, executive director of the Nevada State Education Association. "Obviously the folks in those schools and the students are working very hard, and there's been a conscious focus on mathematics as a challenge area." Lange also said that high teacher turnover in the Edison schools is an issue that should be attended to, but, "We need to give (Edison) a little more time," he said.

Las Vegas Sun, "Improved scores may save Edison contract," Feb. 27, 2004 516431495.html

Michigan Education Report, "Edison spurs controversy, reform in Michigan and United States," Spring 2001

WASHINGTON, D.C. — An imbalance in class offerings between high school and college costs billions of dollars annually, causing high schools to rethink offering advanced placement (AP) courses in lieu of basic writing and mathematics classes.

In the past decade, the number of AP courses offered in high school rose from 400,000 to over a million, while the fastest-growing college courses are basic, remedial English and mathematics. This reversal of roles costs colleges $2 billion per year, according to the Washington-based Institute for Higher Education Policy.

In pushing for increased AP course offerings, high schools neglect the basic skills needed for college-rigor work, causing problems for both students and colleges; fewer than half of students entering college will graduate, according to a report by Achieve, Inc., a not-for-profit education reform group.

USA Today, "High schools skip over basics in rush to college classes," Feb. 27, 2004

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "The Cost of Remedial Education," August 2000

Michigan Privatization Report, "The 'Privatized' Cost of Remedial Education in Michigan," August 2000

DETROIT, Mich. — Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has whittled down his proposal to gain control over the city's schools amid criticism that claimed the plan was an attempt to transfer power to the mayor's office.

In 1999, former Gov. John Engler transferred control of the Detroit school district to the state and installed a new appointed board to oversee the district. Kilpatrick originally asked for ultimate authority in hiring and firing the district's chief executive. Under the plan, Detroit residents would have gone back to electing a board, but its function would have been advisory.

Now Kilpatrick has endorsed an alternative put forth by state Sen. Buzz Thomas, D-Detroit, that would give an elected school board veto power over the mayor's appointment for chief executive, as well as control over the budget. Under Thomas' plan, voters could choose in November between such a system and a traditional board.

Detroit News, "Kilpatrick's school governance proposal flounders," Mar. 1, 2004

Michigan Education Report, "Compromise Gives Archer Control of Detroit Schools," Spring 1999

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of 130,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Neil Block at

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