Poll: Don’t base school closures on tests

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

This may be hard to believe, but there appears to be something Republicans and Democrats can agree on. A poll commissioned by, a pro-school choice group active in Michigan and other states, has found voters of all political persuasions think school closures should not be based on test scores alone.

Patrick Lanne with Public Opinion Strategies, the go-to national polling firm for Republicans, conducted the poll earlier this month and surveyed 600 likely voters in Michigan.

This issue has come to the forefront in this state, as the School Reform Office is looking to close chronically failing schools—for the first time. More than 120 schools are on the latest lowest-performing list and subject to potential closure. A third of the the schools are in the Detroit Public Schools Community District. But 22 charter schools are on the list, too.

When asked about potential fixes for education in the state, only 2 percent suggested closing schools as an option. The majority pointed to other remedies, such as focusing more on basic subjects like reading and math or spending more on schools.

Similarly, 82 percent believe that state performance rankings should not be based only on the state’s new standardized test, the M-STEP, which nearly half of those surveyed don’t view favorably. Rather, residents think parents should play a role in discussions regarding potential closures and that other factors deserve consideration. Improvement over time and graduation rates would be worth including.

Finally, the poll suggests that lawmakers who support closing schools based on tests scores alone could face backlash from voters.

The survey brings up some valid points, as other groups have raised concerns that some schools doing good work have landed wrongly on the failing list. Michigan should look to other states that have successfully incorporated closures in their school turnaround plans. While improvements could be made to how the state ranks public schools, the reform office should not be discouraged from enacting important accountability measures — especially in Detroit, where too many horrible schools have been allowed to survive.