Detroit now has the opportunity to join the ranks of New Orleans and other city school systems nationwide -- from Boston to Chicago to New York City to Washington, D.C. -- that have successfully turned around after producing abysmal student outcomes.In a sweet irony, today the Free Press reports that Michigan's system of assessing how charters are doing in comparison to public schools has an basic flaw that simply helps to promulgate the basic lie of the charter industry:
In every one of these cities, real changes for students happened only after mayors or governors took over and put in place strong leaders who had a serious desire to rebuild.
In every one of these cities, new leaders took advantage of best practices that are proven to work for students nationwide, including challenging academic standards, longer school days, and public charter schools -- practices for which President Barack Obama has expressed his strong support. And in every one of these cities, leaders based every decision on student interests, rather than adult politics.
The state's official method compares all 232 charter schools to 20 "urban host districts" in whose boundaries sit 75% of the state's charter schools. Most are larger districts -- including Detroit and Grand Rapids -- that generally have lower test scores.
Some experts say the state's method skews the comparison in favor of charter schools by comparing charters in more affluent areas to those urban districts. When the charter schools are compared with the districts in which each actually sits, about three out of five fall short on the MEAP.
"The findings are misleading and misrepresent the evidence in the report," Gary Miron, a professor of education at Western Michigan University wrote to the state Board of Education.
On the MEAP math test, for example, a Free Press analysis found 20% of charter schools did better under the current MDE formula but scored worse when compared with their local districts.
Concord Academy in Antrim, east of Grand Traverse Bay, illustrates the gap. It beat the 20-district average for math MEAP scores on which the MDE based its report. But it did worse than Alba Public Schools, the district in whose boundaries the school sits.