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9 districts start school turnarounds with state deals

Holly Fournier
The Detroit News

Nine districts with the lowest-performing schools in Michigan have initiated turnaround efforts after signing partnership agreements with the state, according to the Michigan Department of Education.

Pontiac School District officials entered into their agreement Monday night, following earlier deals struck by the Detroit Public School Community District, Benton Harbor, Saginaw, River Rouge, Kalamazoo, Muskegon Heights, Bridgeport/Spaulding and East Detroit.

The arrangements spare 37 under-performing schools from state-mandated closure this year.

“These districts worked hard to build partnership agreements that hold great promise for the students, educators and their communities,” State Superintendent Brian Whiston said in a statement. “They now hold the steering wheel and are in control of their future. We will work together to make sure they stay on course and provide support when and where it is needed.”

The state school reform office previously targeted the schools for closure after they performed in the bottom 5 percent for a least three consecutive years. Each district now remains “in total control” of its schools with support from the state and other partners, Whiston said.

Goals set in the agreements are unique to each district, officials said. The agreements include progress checks after 18 and 36 months.

“It’s encouraging to see the good working relationship that the Michigan Department of Education and the local districts have been able to develop to help students in struggling schools, which should be everyone’s focus,” Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement.

“Having this sort of commitment at all levels to improving educational outcomes is a great example of the important work that can be accomplished when people are willing to work together.”

Detroit’s agreement, which was unanimously approved last month by board members, will enable 24 academically struggling schools to remain open for a minimum three-year period as officials attempt to increase performance through partnerships with local universities, unions, businesses and community leaders.

The agreement involves collaboration with Wayne RESA, the county’s Intermediate School District, as well as four universities: Eastern Michigan, Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne State.

Detroit’s two dozen schools were on a list of 38 from 10 districts targeted by the state in January for closure. All the schools have performed in the bottom 5 percent for at least three consecutive years, according to the Education Department.

A partnership has not been finalized with the Michigan Technical Academy, as the Detroit charter’s authorizer is in the process of closing the school.

The partnership agreements are available online at the Michigan Department of Education website.

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Twitter: @HollyPFournier