Nick Krieger (@nckrieger):
According to Ingrid Jacques of The Detroit News, a recent poll shows that Michiganians — Republicans and Democrats alike — do not support the idea of closing schools on the basis of standardized test scores alone. Jacques continues:
When asked about potential fixes for education in the state, only 2 percent suggested closing schools as an option. The majority pointed to other remedies, such as focusing more on basic subjects like reading and math or spending more on schools.
Similarly, 82 percent believe that state performance rankings should not be based only on the state's new standardized test, the M-STEP, which nearly half of those surveyed don't view favorably. Rather, residents think parents should play a role in discussions regarding potential closures and that other factors deserve consideration. Improvement over time and graduation rates would be worth including.
Finally, the poll suggests that lawmakers who support closing schools based on tests scores alone could face backlash from voters.
However, Jacques does not explain why pupil test scores are the sole determinant for school closures in Michigan. Here's some background:
As I have noted in the past, there are three different ways in which the state school reform/redesign office ("SRRO") can close a public school in Michigan:
1. The SRRO must close a low-performing public school operated by the Detroit Public Schools Community District if it is among the lowest-achieving 5% of public schools in the state for three consecutive years, MCL 380.391(1);
2. The SRRO must direct the closure of a low-performing charter school that has operated for at least four years if it is among the lowest-achieving 5% of public schools in the state for three consecutive years, MCL 380.507(5); and
3. The SRRO can implement the "school closure" model for a low-performing traditional public school or low-performing charter school that has been placed in the state reform school district or under the control of an appointed CEO, MCL 380.1280c.
Before a school may be closed under any of these three statutes, the SRRO must have identified it as "among the lowest-achieving 5% of all public schools in the state" pursuant to MCL 380.1280c(1).
How, exactly, does the SRRO determine that a school is among the lowest-achieving 5% of public schools in the state? According to MCL 380.1280c(1), the SRRO must make this determination in accordance with the federal guidelines governing the Race To The Top ("RTTT") incentive grant program, established pursuant to §§ 14005 and 14006 of Title XIV of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Public Law 111-5, 123 Stat. 282-284.
The federal guidelines pertaining to the RTTT program, in turn, direct each state to identify the lowest-achieving 5% of schools on the basis of student performance on required yearly reading/language arts and mathematics assessments. See 74 Fed. Reg. 59688, 59772.
When enacting MCL 380.1280c(1) — as well as MCL 380.391(1) and MCL 380.507(5) — the Michigan Legislature made the conscious choice to incorporate these federal RTTT regulations by reference. By doing so, our lawmakers specifically chose to adopt yearly student performance on standardized tests as the sole determinant for school-closure decisions in Michigan.
Of course, the RTTT program has ended, and the new Every Student Succeeds Act returns considerable discretion and control over pupil assessments to the states. In fact, as I have explained previously, it does not appear that the federal RTTT guidelines and "school closure" model even remain viable. Consequently, MCL 380.1280c is outdated and no longer tied to valid federal standards. At the very least, the Michigan Legislature should redefine the SRRO's power to identify low-performing schools and require it to consider additional factors beyond annual pupil test scores before including a school on the lowest-achieving 5% list.