Group wants to cut list of failing
schools by changing standards
by Judy Putnam, Booth Newspapers, July 31,
1,513 schools that are targeted by a new federal program to start
paying to transport students this fall to schools with better test
scores. A plan by a Michigan coalition of education groups would cut
that number in half.
say the new program is unfair because Michigan's standards are higher
than other states'.
it's unfair to suggest that Michigan has 1,500 failing schools while
Arkansas has zero,'' said Ray Telman, executive director of the Middle
Cities Education Association, representing mid-sized urban school
represent one-half of Michigan's 3,000 elementary and middle school
students and three-fourths of the 2,000 Michigan schools receiving
Title 1 money to serve disadvantaged students. Michigan already has a
school-of-choice law. But under the new law, districts must pay for
transportation if schools haven't improved adequately for two years.
failed to improve over three years, they must also offer to pay for
private tutoring and after-school services.
educators are crying foul, saying the earlier standards were set at a
high level to drive improvement and now are being used to punish
schools. Schools winning the state's Golden Apple and Blue Ribbon
awards for excellence are among the 1,500 targeted.
requires 75 percent of students to score at a proficient level in
math, reading, writing and science, or close the gap by 10 percent
each year between the highest- and lowest-achieving groups of
standards focus only on math and reading, and on schools with the
group, six major educational associations and unions, and a Department
of Education committee recommend that the state follow the national
perfectly comfortable with keeping our old standards, but when we're
looking at ourselves against our national counterparts, it's only fair
we use the same standards,'' said Charles Anderson, executive director
of the Michigan Education Association, the state's largest teachers
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Watkins agrees.
stretches to do what's right with our children, but we're not going to
shoot ourselves in the foot,'' he said.
he would present the plan to the State Board of Education Aug. 8, but
it's unclear if the board is required to vote on it.
touchy issue. Educators say they aren't lowering standards by falling
in line with national guidelines, but others disagree.
"It seems to
me we ought to be looking at increasing that number rather than
lowering it. The focus is going in the absolutely wrong direction,''
said Greg McNeilly, executive director of Choices for Children, a
conservative Grand Rapids-based educational group.
parents will have to wait to find out if their children's schools are
offering transportation and other services. A federal Web site tells
parents to contact local principals or state departments of education
about the services, and states are supposed to provide an approved
list of providers.
Michigan is trying to comply, but the U.S. Department of Education has
been slow in giving guidelines. "It's like trying to land an airplane
before the airport is built,'' Watkins said.