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21 new school districts to get help via partnerships

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Twenty-one new struggling school districts in Michigan will be entering into partnership agreements with the Michigan Department of Education to improve achievement levels.

Under a partnership agreement, academic growth goals are set with the state to avoid closure in the future, and the state provides resources for its lowest-performing districts to identify their needs and develop a plan to improve.

This can include needs assessment tools, evidence-based practices and lists of potential partners, such as the intermediate school district, business and community members, parents, higher education organizations and foundations.

State Superintendent Brian Whiston said each local district remains in control of its schools and each agreement includes 18- and 36-month accountability timelines when they will be evaluated on the progress toward school goals. The districts have 90 days to reach an agreement with the state education department.

“These will be positive, yet pressing, conversations with the leaders of these districts to get their struggling schools back on track,” Whiston said. “We want to provide as many local and state-level partners as possible to help students in these schools be successful.”

The 21 schools include traditional public and charter schools. Districts are in Detroit, Warren, Pontiac and Saginaw and include Ecorse Public Schools, the Flint School District, Grand Rapids Public Schools and Muskegon Public Schools.

There are 16 partnership districts already underway in Michigan. The first set of partnership agreements started in the spring of 2017. Schools have 18 months to show progress on intermediate measures, such as hiring a new principal. They have three years to demonstrate improved academics and outcomes on other measures.

Detroit Public Schools Community District will be adding 15 schools to its current partnership agreement. They include A. Philip Randolph Technical High School, Brenda Scott Academy for Theatre Arts, Medicine and Community Health Academy at Cody, Nichols Elementary-Middle School and Osborn College Preparatory Academy.

Each district is assigned a liaison from the state education department who is responsible for supporting the district in implementation of its agreement, helping resolve problems and facilitate discussions and meetings.

This is the third group of districts to be offered partnership agreements. Whiston said the work being done in the current partnership districts has laid the foundation for stronger schools, stronger educators, and greater success by the students — helping Michigan become a Top 10 education state in 10 years.

“It’s been encouraging to watch districts making progress,” Whiston said. “What we’ve seen in the first Partnership Districts exhibits the positive opportunity to work together under the leadership of the local superintendent and the local board of education toward improving student achievement and outcomes.”

At the same time, the state education department is removing 33 schools from the list of identified priority schools, or lowest-performing schools, from previous years. Test scores have improved at the schools and are expected to continue on their positive trends, Whiston said.

DPSCD has four schools exiting priority status. They are Bagley Elementary School, Carver Elementary-Middle School, Detroit City West Side Academy for Leadership Development and Edison Elementary School.