Possible School Closures | Credit: Detroit Free Press

I was listening to an NPR story regarding the proposed school closings in Detroit and was appalled by what I was hearing. The Michigan School Reform Office (SRO) sent letters to parents of students who attend one of the schools on the closing list. These letters were sent without letting any school administrators know; causing anxiety and confusion. The letter that a parent from Law Middle School stated that Law would be closed and a list of suggestions for districts where the child could go to school was provided. The parent stated that the child would probably go to Fitzgerald which is in the city of Warren, just across 8 mile. Unfortunately, Fitzgerald doesn’t have any space for the child. What about other districts on the list? Some are up to 50 miles away and some don’t even take students from Wayne County. Why provide a list of districts that won’t/can’t accept a student from Detroit?

Three of the schools that are to be closed are a part of the Education Achievement Authority (EAA), Governor Snyder’s school district. The EAA took over these schools to turn them around. So why are these schools now included in the list of schools to be closed? If the EAA’s goal was to make these schools better, why didn’t it succeed? Could it be because there was little to no conversation about the unique challenges in these schools? 

According to an article in Bridge, the state of Massachusetts, a high performing state, takes a “more research-based vision for improvement, one based on best practices” where “You’d never see a list of 40 schools come out so randomly.” In Massachusetts, schools that are chronically low achieving can be taken over by the state, but “unlike Michigan, the process that could lead to reconstituting or closing a school involves public meetings with the school board and community… Michigan’s law that allows closing low-performing schools does not require any public meetings.” Sounds like Massachusetts takes a design thinking approach in how they address low-achieving schools. Maybe Michigan should do the same.

Thankfully, it seems Michigan’s elected officials are listening to opposing views and are talking to stakeholders about how to approach low-achieving schools and are delaying the school closings.  I hope Michigan’s leaders take this opportunity to really listen and work alongside those who will be impacted by the decisions to be made instead of trying to implement a strategy without any real dialogue.