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Former EAA school to become Detroit's newest exam high school

Teacher at a chalkboard
Jennifer Guerra
Michigan Radio

Detroit students will have a new high school option this fall, but they'll have to pass a test to get in.

There are currently three high schools in Detroit with entrance exams -- Cass Technical, Renaissance, and Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School -- but space is limited at those schools.

Nikolai Vitti is the new superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools Community District. He estimates the district loses around 500 students who apply to those three schools but don't get in. "There’s an opportunity with students that don’t get into those schools to capturing them in our school system by offering or replicating that type of program," he explains.

The new school will open at the site of the old Southeastern High School. Until this summer it was part of the state’s reform district, the Education Achievement Authority. The state dissolved the EAAafter only five years because it was widely regarded as a failed experiment. The 15 schools in the EAA have been absorbed back into DPSCD.

Vitti says 10th - 12th grade students currently enrolled at Southeastern will not have to take an entrance exam to get in, but the incoming freshmen class will. "I’m not going to suggest that in one year Southeastern is going to be Renaissance and Cass,' he adds, "but I think we can make it successful and we have to do that with fidelity and that’s what we’re working on now to ensure that happens in the fall."

In an effort to re-brand Southeastern High School as an exam school modeled after Cass Tech and Renaissance, the district is in talks to change the building's name. According to The Detroit Free Press, the first name that was floated -- Southeastern College Preparatory High School -- did not get final approval from the district's school board:

...board member LaMar Lemmons suggested they go with a different name: Southeastern Renaissance Collegiate High School. He said the point of the name change is to attract students to a revamped program. He said the district needs to go even further, by changing it to a name that better reflects the evolution of the school. He suggested building on the success of Renaissance High School, one of the district's top-performing high schools. "That would signify this is a total new institution," Lemmons said. "And it would encourage people to come from all the neighborhoods around the city."

The Free Press says the school board tabled the discussion for now.

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.
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