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“This is colonialism”: Detroit schools chief blasts lame-duck A-F school grading plan

Nikolai Vitti
Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of Detroit Public Schools Community District, is strongly opposed to an education bill making its way through the state's lame-duck legislature. SB 5526 narrowly passed with some amendments in the state House around 3 a.m. Thursday morning. The bill goes next to the state Senate.

"The process was not engaging. It was not transparent," Vitti told Stateside host Cynthia Canty. "And then the product itself is faulty. It's not going to work."

Listen to Stateside's full conversation with Superintendent Nikolai Vitti above. 

Vitti said Detroit was not consulted, even as it is nearing completion of its own school grading system that it was ordered to develop as part of the 2016 school rescue plan.

"It's just another example of how legislators in Lansing have imposed reform on Detroit without actually engaging the stakeholders," Vitti said. "And time and time again, we have history to show it doesn't work."

The system provided for in the bill would assign an A though F grade to schools in each of five categories: student proficiency in math and in English language arts; student growth in math and English language arts; student growth of English language learners; high school graduation rates; and performance on state tests as compared with other schools serving a similar student population. According to Vitti, the system is confusing and unhelpful.

"It's five grades for one school," said Vitti. "Who's going to figure out what those five grades mean? Does one mean more than the other?"

Vitti said the system the bill would impose is a one-size-fits-all approach that ignores urban school districts.

"There's no recognititon of the challenges in urban school districts within this model," said Vitti. "You can't look at every school the same, disregard poverty, disregard English learner status, disregard special needs."

Vitti said that one of his biggest concerns about the bill is that it does not sufficiently recognize and measure improvement and growth.

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