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3 districts avoid school closures with state deal

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Several districts with the lowest-performing schools in Michigan will avoid forced building closures by signing partnership agreements with the state, education officials announced Tuesday.

The school districts of Kalamazoo, Muskegon Heights and Bridgeport/Spaulding have signed agreements while officials continue to work to do the same with Detroit, East Detroit, Benton Harbor, Saginaw, River Rouge, Pontiac, officials said. However, a partnership likely will not be finalized with the Michigan Technical Academy, as the Detroit charter’s authorizer is in the process of closing the school.

Additional agreements are expected to be finalized this week, officials said. The districts have until Sunday to reach partnerships before the state School Reform Office revisits the option of closing schools.

“I commend these districts for making the important decision to develop a Partnership Agreement that sets some ambitious and realistic goals to improve the academic achievement of their schools,” State Superintendent Brian Whiston said in a statement. “A lot of hard work still lies ahead for all of us.”

The 10 districts entered into early partnership agreement discussions with the state in March after they were identified by the School Reform Office as home to 38 under-performing schools targeted for closure. Two dozen of those schools are in Detroit, including 16 in the Detroit Public Schools Community District and eight within the Education Achievement Authority.

Each partnership agreement involves support from the Michigan Department of Education, local intermediate school districts, state and local social services and education experts, officials said. In Detroit, district leaders are looking to work on turnaround efforts with Eastern Michigan University, University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University.

“These are positive directions the leaders of these districts are taking to get their lowest performing schools back on track,” Whiston said. “We want to provide as many local and state-level partners to help students in these schools be successful.”

As agreements are reached, state officials agree to delay possible closures and instead will monitor each school for measurable improvement. In Detroit, officials have indicated schools may get help with academic achievement and decreasing chronic absenteeism and teacher vacancies. Goals there would be evaluated after 18 months and again in 36 months, state officials have said.

Each “partnership district” will receive a liaison from the state department of education who will help implement the agreement and coordinate support from the state and other outside agencies.

HFournier@detroitnews.com

(313) 223-4616

Twitter: @HollyPFournier