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Michigan school turnaround program adds more districts

Several students sit at desks in a classroom with large windows.

Fifty-four Michigan districts with the state’s lowest performing schools enter a turnaround program.

Anthony Lanzilote for Chalkbeat

Fifty-four school districts with 112 low-performing schools will get extra support through a Michigan turnaround program that has proven to be helpful to many districts. But each district’s share of the resources may be more limited than in the past.

That’s because state funding for the program remains at $6 million, the same as last year, when just 36 districts were in the program. Those districts entered the program between 2017 and 2019 in three separate cohorts. Districts move out of the program as their struggling schools meet performance goals or once they complete the three-year partnership program. 

Some districts that completed the program will continue receiving support as other schools in those districts are flagged. 

The increase in the number of so-called partnership districts is not a sign schools are performing worse, said Katharine Strunk, who studies the districts as director of the Education Policy Innovation Collaborative at Michigan State University. Rather, she said, it means that the lowest performing schools across the state are less concentrated. For example, the Detroit Public Schools Community District previously had 39 qualifying schools, but now has 21. 

Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said his schools have been improving despite disruptions related to the pandemic over the last three years. He said he expects more academic growth now that those challenges have been mitigated.

Michigan created the Partnership District program in 2017 to meet requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which requires states to identify and provide extra support to their lowest performing schools.

Districts become part of the program if any school within them has a four-year graduation rate of 67% or less, or scores in the bottom 5% on the state’s index accountability system, which rates districts on student performance, attendance, graduation rates, availability of career and college preparation courses, and more. (Vitti said he objects to the bottom-5% criterion for identifying low-performing schools, which will “always identify high-poverty schools”; he called for using lack of improvement as a standard instead.)

No districts entered the program in 2020 and 2021 because of pandemic-related disruptions to student testing used to identify districts that need help. 

Partnership districts receive extra help from the Michigan Department of Education and from their local or regional educational service agencies. Liaisons from those agencies help districts set improvement goals and access resources to meet them.

Daveda Colbert, superintendent of the Wayne Regional Educational Service Agency, said her staff will help local district administrators use data to identify root causes of academic needs and then will develop plans to address them. 

“Working together with the focus on improving student outcomes will help our identified schools make the necessary improvements to achieve success,” Colbert said in an email message to Chalkbeat and Bridge. 

But the program’s finite resources and funding pool — the Legislature set aside $6 million — will now be stretched across 50% more districts than last year. That may make it harder for MDE and educational service agencies to help, Strunk said.

“The challenge about 54 districts is that it’s 54 different organizations with which to work,” she said.

Principals in the partnership districts use the extra money to improve technology, staffing, and teacher training, but they’ve said it isn’t enough.

State Superintendent Michael Rice agrees with them.

“What we’re experiencing is the consequence of underfunding Michigan public school students, educators, and education for many years, the resultant teacher shortage, and a once-in-a-century pandemic,” he said in a press release.

Strunk and other researchers at EPIC found that students in partnership districts made academic gains before the pandemic. Later, progress stalled, but students in partnership district schools still tested as well as or better than students in demographically similar schools that were not in the program. 

The lowest performing students, in particular, benefited the most from resources provided to partnership districts, Strunk said. 

School choice advocates prefer a different solution. They are pressing for passage of the Let MI Kids Learn plan, which would give tax breaks to people who contribute to voucher-like scholarships for students to attend private schools or obtain other private education services. 

“Michigan’s public school bureaucracy has failed our kids,” said Beth DeShone, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project, an advocacy group that supports the scholarship plan.

But the proposal’s prospects are dimming. 

Let MI Kids Learn submitted signatures on petitions for a ballot issue earlier this year, but they weren’t in time to make the November ballot, and supporters hoped to have the plan enacted instead through a vote by the GOP-controlled Legislature. 

But Republicans will lose control of both houses of the Legislature after the current legislative session, and the Bureau of Elections is unlikely to certify the petitions by then. Democrats largely oppose the scholarship proposal. 

Editor’s note: December 6, 2022: This story was updated to add comment from Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti.

Chalkbeat Detroit staff writer Koby Levin contributed. Tracie Mauriello covers state education policy for Chalkbeat Detroit and Bridge Michigan. Reach her at tmauriello@chalkbeat.org.

2022 Michigan partnership districts and schools
District Schools ISD Charter Authorizer
Academy for Business and Technology (82921) Academy for Business and Technology High School (08435) Wayne RESA (82000) Eastern Michigan University
Academy of Warren (50911) Academy of Warren (09602) Macomb ISD (50000) Bay Mills Community College
American International Academy (82730) American International Academy - Elementary (00899) Wayne RESA (82000) Lake Superior State University
American International Academy (82730) American International Academy High School/Middle Schooll (03058) Wayne RESA (82000) Lake Superior State University
Arts Academy in the Woods (50905) Arts Academy in the Woods (08884) Macomb ISD (50000) Macomb ISD
Barack Obama Leadership Academy (82933) Barack Obama Leadership Academy (08572) Wayne RESA (82000) Detroit Public Schools Community District
Battle Creek Public Schools (13020) Northwestern Middle School (02776) Calhoun ISD (13000) n/a
Beecher Community School District (25240) Beecher High School (00253) Genesee ISD (25000) n/a
Beecher Community School District (25240) Dailey Elementary School (00862) Genesee ISD (25000) n/a
Bellevue Community Schools (23010) Bellevue Jr/Sr High School (00267) Calhoun ISD (13000) n/a
Benton Harbor Area Schools (11010) Benton Harbor High School (00286) Berrien RESA (11000) n/a
Benton Harbor Area Schools (11010) Career and Alternative Pathways to Education Center (09912) Berrien RESA (11000) n/a
Benton Harbor Area Schools (11010) Fair Plain East Elementary (01629) Berrien RESA (11000) n/a
Benton Harbor Area Schools (11010) Fair Plain Middle School (02068) Berrien RESA (11000) n/a
Benton Harbor Area Schools (11010) Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary (03502) Berrien RESA (11000) n/a
Benton Harbor Charter School Academy (11903) Benton Harbor Charter School Academy (08706) Berrien RESA (11000) Ferris State University
Bradford Academy (63917) Bradford Academy (09292) Oakland Schools (63000) Bay Mills Community College
Comstock Public Schools (39030) Comstock High School (00765) Kalamazoo RESA (39000) n/a
Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences (82929) Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences (08489) Wayne RESA (82000) Oakland University
Detroit Community Schools (82925) Detroit Community Schools - High School (08456) Wayne RESA (82000) Bay Mills Community College
Detroit Leadership Academy (82722) Detroit Leadership Academy High School (02222) Wayne RESA (82000) Central Michigan University
Detroit Leadership Academy (82722) Detroit Leadership Academy K-8 (00334) Wayne RESA (82000) Central Michigan University
Detroit Public Safety Academy (82704) Detroit Public Safety Academy (02015) Wayne RESA (82000) Eastern Michigan University
Detroit Public Schools Community District (82015) Brenda Scott Academy for Theatre Arts (09341) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Detroit Public Schools Community District (82015) Brewer Academy (09991) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Detroit Public Schools Community District (82015) Burns Elementary-Middle School (00456) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Detroit Public Schools Community District (82015) Central High School (00617) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Detroit Public Schools Community District (82015) Cody High School (00018) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Detroit Public Schools Community District (82015) Davis Aerospace Technical High School at Golightly (00029) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Detroit Public Schools Community District (82015) Denby High School (00902) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Detroit Public Schools Community District (82015) Detroit Lions Academy (08925) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Detroit Public Schools Community District (82015) East English Village Preparatory Academy (01189) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Detroit Public Schools Community District (82015) Emerson Elementary-Middle School (01134) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Detroit Public Schools Community District (82015) Hamilton Academy (09994) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Detroit Public Schools Community District (82015) Henderson Academy (00004) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Detroit Public Schools Community District (82015) Henry Ford High School (01634) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Detroit Public Schools Community District (82015) J. E. Clark Preparatory Academy (09992) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Detroit Public Schools Community District (82015) Mackenzie Elementary-Middle School (00853) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Detroit Public Schools Community District (82015) Mason Academy (02431) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Detroit Public Schools Community District (82015) Mumford High School (02644) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Detroit Public Schools Community District (82015) Nolan Elementary-Middle School (02708) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Detroit Public Schools Community District (82015) Northwestern High School (02778) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Detroit Public Schools Community District (82015) Palmer Park Preparatory Academy (01552) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Detroit Public Schools Community District (82015) Pershing High School (03015) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Detroit Public Schools Community District (82015) Southeastern High School (03540) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Detroit Public Schools Community District (82015) Wayne Elementary School (04406) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Detroit Public Schools Community District (82015) Western International High School (04477) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Detroit Service Learning Academy (82953) Oak Park Service Learning Academy (OPSLA) (03655) Wayne RESA (82000) Lake Superior State University
Eagle's Nest Academy (25916) Eagle's Nest Academy (02434) Genesee ISD (25000) Grand Valley State University
Eastpointe Community Schools (50020) Eastpointe High School (01003) Macomb ISD (50000) n/a
Eastpointe Community Schools (50020) Pleasantview Elementary School (03074) Macomb ISD (50000) n/a
Faxon Academy (63926) Faxon Academy (01364) Oakland Schools (63000) Saginaw Valley State University
FlexTech High School (47903) FlexTech High School (00760) Livingston ESA (47000) Central Michigan University
Flint, School District of the City of (25010) Brownell STEM Academy (01916) Genesee ISD (25000) n/a
Flint, School District of the City of (25010) Eisenhower School (01098) Genesee ISD (25000) n/a
Flint, School District of the City of (25010) Freeman School (01320) Genesee ISD (25000) n/a
Flint, School District of the City of (25010) Neithercut Elementary School (02670) Genesee ISD (25000) n/a
Flint, School District of the City of (25010) Pierce School (03033) Genesee ISD (25000) n/a
Flint, School District of the City of (25010) Potter School (03108) Genesee ISD (25000) n/a
George Washington Carver Academy (82963) George Washington Carver Elementary School (02484) Wayne RESA (82000) Bay Mills Community College
Grand Rapids Public Schools (41010) Alger Middle School (02051) Kent ISD (41000) n/a
Grand Rapids Public Schools (41010) Campus Elementary (02028) Kent ISD (41000) n/a
Grand Rapids Public Schools (41010) Ottawa Hills High School (03197) Kent ISD (41000) n/a
Greater Heights Academy (25914) Greater Heights Academy (01751) Genesee ISD (25000) Central Michigan University
Highland Park Public School Academy System (82749) Barber Elementary School (03228) Wayne RESA (82000) Highland Park City Schools
Hope Academy (82942) Hope Academy (08637) Wayne RESA (82000) Eastern Michigan University
Inkster Preparatory Academy (82762) Inkster Preparatory Academy (03034) Wayne RESA (82000) Central Michigan University
International Academy of Saginaw (73912) International Academy of Saginaw (09784) Saginaw ISD (73000) Bay Mills Community College
Jackson Public Schools (38170) John R. Lewis Elementary (03921) Jackson ISD (38000) n/a
Lansing Public School District (33020) Attwood School (01273) Ingham ISD (33000) n/a
Lansing Public School District (33020) Gardner International School (03382) Ingham ISD (33000) n/a
Lansing Public School District (33020) Gier Park School (01400) Ingham ISD (33000) n/a
Lansing Public School District (33020) J.W. Sexton High School (01865) Ingham ISD (33000) n/a
Lansing Public School District (33020) Lyons School (02290) Ingham ISD (33000) n/a
Lansing Public School District (33020) Mt. Hope School (01278) Ingham ISD (33000) n/a
Lansing Public School District (33020) North School (06662) Ingham ISD (33000) n/a
Lansing Public School District (33020) Reo School (03181) Ingham ISD (33000) n/a
Lansing Public School District (33020) Wexford Montessori Magnet School (04650) Ingham ISD (33000) n/a
Macomb Montessori Academy (50914) Macomb Montessori Academy (01738) Macomb ISD (50000) Lake Superior State University
Marvin L. Winans Academy of Performing Arts (82924) Marvin L. Winans Academy - Elementary (09705) Wayne RESA (82000) Saginaw Valley State University
Mildred C. Wells Preparatory Academy (11904) Mildred C. Wells Preparatory Academy (09608) Berrien RESA (11000) Bay Mills Community College
Mount Clemens Community School District (50160) Mount Clemens High School (02624) Macomb ISD (50000) n/a
Multicultural Academy (81908) Multicultural Academy (09446) Washtenaw ISD (81000) Bay Mills Community College
Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System (61905) Dr. Martin Luther King Academy (02546) Muskegon Area ISD (61000) Muskegon Heights School District
Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System (61905) Muskegon Heights Academy (02651) Muskegon Area ISD (61000) Muskegon Heights School District
New Paradigm Glazer-Loving Academy (82735) New Paradigm Loving Academy (03725) Wayne RESA (82000) Grand Valley State University
Old Redford Academy (82956) Old Redford Academy - High (09481) Wayne RESA (82000) Central Michigan University
Plymouth Educational Center Charter School (82904) Plymouth Educational Center (08255) Wayne RESA (82000) Central Michigan University
Pontiac City School District (63030) Herrington School (01652) Oakland Schools (63000) n/a
Pontiac City School District (63030) Pontiac High School (02756) Oakland Schools (63000) n/a
Port Huron Area School District (74010) STEAM Academy at Woodrow Wilson Elementary (04588) St. Clair County RESA (74000) n/a
River Rouge, School District of the City of (82120) River Rouge High School (03208) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Romulus Community Schools (82130) Romulus Senior High School (03260) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Romulus Community Schools (82130) Romulus Virtual Learning Center (02874) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Saginaw Academy of Excellence (73901) Saginaw Academy of Excellence (03407) Saginaw ISD (73000) Eastern Michigan University
Saginaw, School District of the City of (73010) Arthur Eddy Academy (02446) Saginaw ISD (73000) n/a
Saginaw, School District of the City of (73010) Herig School (01645) Saginaw ISD (73000) n/a
Saginaw, School District of the City of (73010) Jessie Loomis School (01929) Saginaw ISD (73000) n/a
Saginaw, School District of the City of (73010) Jessie Rouse School (01930) Saginaw ISD (73000) n/a
Saginaw, School District of the City of (73010) Saginaw High School (03336) Saginaw ISD (73000) n/a
South Redford School District (82140) SOAR Academic Institute (02347) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Taylor School District (82150) Taylor Virtual Learning Academy (01381) Wayne RESA (82000) n/a
Van Dyke Public Schools (50220) Lincoln High School (02201) Macomb ISD (50000) n/a
Washtenaw Technical Middle College (81903) Washtenaw Technical Middle College (08483) Washtenaw ISD (81000) Washtenaw Community College
Westfield Charter Academy (82766) Westfield Preparatory High School (03608) Wayne RESA (82000) Grand Valley State University
Ypsilanti Community Schools (81020) ACCE (03000) Washtenaw ISD (81000) n/a
Michigan Department of Education

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