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0000017b-35e5-df5e-a97b-35edafaa0000Kids all over Michigan are starting the new school year.We're spending the month of September taking a look at education in our state. To see the stories and interviews included in our "Back to School" series scroll below and check back throughout the month.

More school districts join legal fight against state intervention in struggling schools

Brett Levin
Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Some Macomb County school districts want to join the fight against state intervention in schools deemed to be “failing.”

Warren Consolidated Schools, Van Dyke Public Schools, Mount Clemens Community Schools, and Roseville Community Schoolssignaled their intention to join the East Detroit Public Schools’ lawsuitthis week.

East Detroit sued the state School Reform Office earlier this year over plans to appoint a CEO to take over the district’s four priority schools. That case is pending in the Michigan Court of Claims; in the meantime the CEO is on the job, but with limited powers.

These four other districts all have at least one priority school, and they also share East Detroit’s concerns. They’re especially concerned the School Reform Office will move to close those schools deemed chronically failing.

"Closing schools is a failed strategy and ignores what works."

“Closing schools is a failed strategy and ignores what works,” the districts said in a joint press statement, noting they felt they “had no choice but to take this legal action to block state takeover using unproven and discredited practices.”

“The communities and Macomb County’s leadership feel strongly that this local control is the best option for students and supports the continued growth of the communities.”

For its part, the School Reform Office has taken a more aggressive stance toward dealing with priority schools since Gov. Snyder removed the SRO from the Michigan Department of Education last year. The Office is now under his direct control.

After initially indicating that it could close a number of chronically low-performing schools after the coming school year, the SRO has since backtracked somewhat, saying it would only do that as a last resort, and nothing has been decided yet.

The whole issue took school districts by surprise, though.

The state had promised not to issue priority school lists, or undertake interventions based on them, until next year, giving districts at least two years to adapt to a new, tougher state testing regimen.

But the SRO is set to release just such a top-to-bottom ranking of all schools, including the lowest-performing 5%, based on 2015 test data Thursday. A second list updated with the latest 2016 data is expected later in the fall.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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