Whiston: EMs should have changed DPS curriculum

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

State Superintendent Brian Whiston said state-installed emergency managers should have ensured that students in Detroit Public Schools were being taught with curriculum aligned to Michigan’s Common Core standards while the district was under state control through 2016.

“Absolutely, yes they should have. We didn’t have the authority to go in or weren’t asked to go in, but they should have,” Whiston said Tuesday during a break of the state board of education meeting on Tuesday.

“You would be surprised at how many of our partnership districts, or districts that are struggling, don’t have their curriculum aligned,” Whiston said. “We are finding a lot of school districts that were never aligned for whatever reason or was aligned to an old system.”

Detroit Public Schools Community District is one of 16 local Michigan school districts that are under partnership agreements.

Curriculum audits are ordered for all partnership school districts in Michigan. MDE can force curriculum alignment, Whiston said. Districts can work with their intermediate school district to get the help and the curriculum.

On Tuesday, The Detroit News published a story on the district’s unaligned literacy curriculum. State emergency managers who ran the district from 2009 through 2016 never appropriately shifted curriculum and professional development to align with Common Core standards.

Those standards, adopted by the state in 2010, outline what students are expected to learn and be able to do at the end of each grade level. State assessments are based on those standards.

Schools districts in Muskegon, Saginaw and River Rouge are among districts that lacked aligned curriculum and have made the change or are working toward installing new ones, officials said.

Anna Heaton, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Snyder, said in Michigan, decisions on curriculum, instruction and professional development are left completely up to local school districts.

“The goal of Governor Snyder’s rescue of the district was to get it on solid financial footing so those who are locally in control could begin focusing on academic matters instead of managing a financial crisis,” Heaton said.

Michigan schools, meanwhile, will soon be rated on an index scale of 0 to 100 on such issues as academic growth, proficiency, graduation rate and whether they have art and gym classes, state school officials said on Tuesday.

Whiston said that the 0-100 Index, to be released this spring, replaces the state’s Top to Bottom rating of schools and is part of Michigan’s federal education plan known as ESSA.

“This is a good thing, along with the Parent Transparency Dashboard. We need both,” Whiston said. “Schools are complicated. One single grade isn’t enough.”

A score of under 30 will signify that a school is on the bottom 5 percent of schools statewide, Whiston said.

Schools will also be rated on student participation on tests, performance of students who are English language learners and whether they have a school librarian.