Detroit’s Allen Academy, 4 other Mich. charters closing

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News

Five Michigan charter schools are slated to close, including Detroit’s Allen Academy, a state charter school association said Tuesday.

The Michigan Association of Public School Academies said Allen Academy, a K-12 school on the city’s west side with nearly 900 students, is being shut Thursday by its authorizer, Ferris State University, because of poor academic performance.

Sandy Gholston, a Ferris State spokesman, said the decision to close the school was based on subpar performances on tests, including M-STEP and the ACT, as well as a high teacher turnover rate last year and declining enrollment.

He also said Allen Academy has been outperformed by Detroit Public Schools in several grades and subjects during the past several years, particularly in math and English language arts.

“A five-person team visited the academy in February 2016 to perform a reauthorization review,” said Gholston. “Allen experienced a teacher turnover rate of 70 percent, last year, due to a change in management companies, and had 10 full-time substitutes teaching at the school this year.”

Gholston also said Allen experienced financial stress this year due to the loss of more than 100 students.

The other schools to be closed, according to MAPSA, are:

■Academy of Waterford in Waterford Township, which has suffered from low enrollment and financial viability issues. The K-8 school enrolled 117 students this school year, according to state data.

■Nataki Talibah Schoolhouse of Detroit, which also has had financial viability issues. The K-8 school has 142 students.

■Dream Academy in Benton Harbor, which has had academic performance problems. The school for grades 9-12 has 268 students.

■Experiencia Preparatory Academy in Detroit, which suffers from financial viability issues as well. The K-10 school has 338 students.

The schools’ planned closures come after state lawmakers this month passed a $617 million rescue package for DPS that omitted a citywide education commission, backed by Gov. Rick Snyder and Mayor Mike Duggan, that would have been empowered to close poorly performing Detroit schools, including charters. MAPSA and other charter school advocates opposed the commission.

Instead, the legislation calls for creation of a six-member advisory council, including district and charter representatives, that would produce reports highlighting where schools are needed and study a potential citywide transportation system.

MAPSA said other nearby schools were consistently outperforming Allen Academy, so closing it will allow its students to enroll in higher-performing schools. According to state data, the school enrolled 898 students in grades K-12 for the current school year, down from 1,010 the year before.

To help students and families find new schools for 2016-17, MAPSA, a state charter school advocacy group, is organizing an enrollment fair at the school Wednesday. Representatives from several area schools will be available to meet with students and parents.

Allen’s ACT composite score for 2014-15, the most recent year available, was 14, compared with the statewide average of 19.9. Just 7 percent of Allen Academy students were proficient in English language arts at the end of third grade, compared with 50.1 percent statewide.

By comparison, the average composite ACT score in DPS was 16.5, and 17.7 percent of the district’s third-graders students were proficient in English Language Arts.

“It’s never easy to make the decision to close a school, but we supported the move because every student in Michigan deserves a quality education in a quality school,” said MAPSA President Dan Quisenberry in a statement. “What’s important now is for each and every one of the students from Allen Academy to find a seat in a quality school.”