Bold Education Plans in Detroit

by Rosemary Lahasky

Over the weekend, Detroit Public Schools (DPS) emergency financial manager Robert Bobb announced that in an effort to cut down a $300 million deficit while improving student achievement, DPS should convert 41 of its lowest-performing schools into DPS-authorized charter schools. Bobb said,

“Rather than simply closing schools, this plan seeks to transform DPS into one of the nation’s premier urban school districts by recruiting some of the best, proven school operators to serve Detroit’s children and remake schools that have been failing them for years.”

This plan, known as the Renaissance Plan 2012, could affect close to 16,000 students. Public charter schools provide greater flexibility over staffing and budgets as well as the ability to experiment with curriculum and school calendars. As with all public schools, charter schools must be held accountable for student outcomes and shut down by authorizers for poor academic performance. Recently, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools ranked Michigan in the top 15 for state charter school laws, highlighting the state board of education’s extensive on-site visits and reviews of charter school authorizers across the state.

School districts across the country are going to have to make some tough decisions over the next few years when it comes to balancing budgets while placing an emphasis on improving student achievement. Why does our nation insist that the Motor City redefine itself through innovation and improved performance in the automobile industry, but not take the same “out of the box” approaches when it comes to education—a system that is in an equally dire need of repair? With just 5% of 4th graders in Detroit reading at or above a proficient level, it’s time for bold plans to be more than just proposed, but implemented.

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