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Catch up while keeping up: What struggling schools face to remain open

Boy in classroom with his hand raised
Mercedes Mejia
Michigan Radio
A charter advocacy group gives Michigan's charter law a passing grade

What's happening with the state's poorest performing schools?

The upcoming holiday break kind of marks the half-way point in the school year.

That's especially important for the 37 Michigan schools fighting for their lives.

These schools were put on the state's closure list after years of poor test scores. They've now entered into a partnership with the state, a sort of "intensive care" unit for troubled schools.

And, more than 40 additional schools will likely enter into partnerships based on their 2017 test scores.

Erin Einhorn, a Chalkbeat Detroit reporter, recently visited a Detroit elementary-middle school threatened with closure last spring. She joined Stateside to share what she learned.

Listen to the full conversation above, or read highlights below.

On how schools in partnership agreements struggle to catch up while keeping up

“What happens at schools that are struggling is that kids, if you’re at a third grade level, the school is going to work to bring you up to the fourth grade level, the fifth grade level, but when it comes time to take the M-STEP, if you’re in sixth grade, you’re going to get the sixth grade test,” Einhorn said.

“So even if a child improves dramatically, from the third grade level to the fifth grade level, even over six months, if you add two years of skills within a six month period, most people are going to say, ‘That’s terrific,’ but when you take the state exam, you’re still going to be behind. So, with schools like this, what makes it really hard to do school turnaround is the idea that you have to do both things at the same time.”

On how political turnover could impact schools in partnership agreements

“The partnership agreement isn’t state law and it’s something that Governor Snyder has embraced as an alternative to closing schools, but a new governor is going to be elected next year and a new governor could have a different plan," Einhorn said. "So even if a school is in the partnership agreement, they might still be closed down by the next governor."

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Stateside is produced daily by a dedicated group of producers and production assistants. Listen daily, on-air, at 3 and 8 p.m., or subscribe to the daily podcast wherever you like to listen.
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