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State partnership offers schools threatened with closure 18 months to improve


The Michigan Department of Education is offering a reprieve for the 38 schools in danger of being closed for poor performance.

The reprieve is laid out in a letterfrom Michigan Superintendent Brian Whiston to the eight school districts with schools on the possible closure list.

Erin Einhorn reports for Chalkbeat Detroit, focusing on education issues. She spoke to Stateside to explain what this means for the 38 schools.

The state calls it a “partnership model,” which Einhorn said offers an way to make schools better, not just shut them down. 

“School districts, school boards are going to remain in control of their schools," Einhorn said. "They have to put together a team of partners, which could include community groups, union leaders, parents, other people…" 

The group will then “identify the causes that are causing schools not to be successful and figure out what are the solutions — the research-based solutions.”

The “partnership” will need to come to an agreement within 60 days. If it can do that, the closure will be put off for at least 18 months. The partnership plan will have specific targets and involved partners will agree to try to meet those targets within 18 months.

The “partnership model” indicates the Michigan Department of Education is interested in hearing from the academic community and encouraging districts and schools to get to know the data and figure out why these schools struggle.

“These are schools that are really, really struggling and that are really, really challenging which is how they got on that closure list in the first place,” Einhorn said. “So they’re trying to say to these districts, 'Let’s really understand what’s not working in these schools.'”

One of the frustrations with the possible school closure list was that it didn’t take into account schools that had recently received taxpayer money for improvements. Detroit’s Mumford High School was on the possible closure list, but in a $50 million brand-new building.

The community was very frustrated, Einhorn said, that the state hadn’t considered funding the schools had received from taxpayers, or privately raised from corporations or community groups.

“People invested in these schools, because the community valued the schools,” Einhorn said.

Listen to the full interview above.

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