Michigan says 38 underperforming public schools could close

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LANSING, Mich. (AP/WOOD) — For the first time, the state of Michigan is planning to close public schools for academic reasons.

The Michigan School Reform Office said Friday that 38 schools are failing and subject to closure. Some of those schools could stay open if state officials decide closure would pose an unreasonable hardship for students with no better available options.>>PDF: Lowest achieving Michigan schools

More than half of the 38 schools are in Detroit. The others are in Benton Harbor, Bridgeport, East Detroit, Kalamazoo, Muskegon Heights, Pontiac, River Rouge and Saginaw. The schools listed have been in the bottom 5 percent in terms of test scores for three years in a row.

The law allows for state-ordered closures if chronically underperforming schools have not improved despite receiving other forms of intervention.

The closure option has not been used before.

Muskegon Heights Superintendent Alena Zachery-Ross said a closure of Muskegon Heights Academy would cause “undue hardship” on the students.

“Our staff is focused on improving student achievement and this type of distraction only causes uncertainty,” Zachery-Ross said in a statement released Friday. She said she was confident that when state officials visit, they’ll see the progress students are making.

Washington Writers’ Academy and the Woodward School for Technology and Research, both in Kalamazoo, were also on the “failing schools” list.

But there’s good news for Grand Rapids Public Schools. Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal said six GRPS schools were removed from the Priority School list, which includes schools that have been in the bottom 5 percent at least once over the past four years.

Aberdeen School, Campus Elementary, Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Academy, Mulick Park Elementary, Ottawa Hills High School and Union High School were all removed from the list.

Weatherall Neal said the district’s remaining seven schools on the list all improved enough that the Michigan School Reform Office “indicated that they will not be requiring any additional corrective action.”  Those schools include Alger Middle, Burton Middle, Coit Creative Arts Academy, Dickinson Academy, Ken-O-Sha Park Elementary and Westwood Middle.

GRPS said more of its schools also ranked as Reward Schools, meaning they ranked within the top 5 percent overall, were among the top 5 percent of schools to grow the most in achievement, or outperformed similar schools or their predicted ranking.  Those schools include Blandford, City High Middle, Congress Elementary and Shawmut Hills School.

“This is further evidence of the growing momentum and success of the GRPS Transformation Plan! Hats off to each and every staff member – together we are doing it!” stated Weatherall Neal in a Friday news release.

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