Governor, Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager jointly unveil dramatic education reform plan to restructure failing Michigan schools

Goal of new system of schools is to provide all Michigan students with skills to complete rigorous post-secondary program of either college or career training

DETROIT – Gov. Rick Snyder and Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts today announced a plan to dramatically redesign public education in Michigan’s lowest performing schools by including them into a new system that drives vastly more resources directly into their classrooms and offers greater autonomy to help ensure dramatic student achievement increases.

The Education Achievement System (EAS) plan is a new statewide school system that will operate the lowest performing 5 percent of schools in Michigan not achieving satisfactory results on a redesign plan or that are under an emergency manager. It is designed to provide a new, stable, financially responsible set of public schools that create the conditions, supports, tools and resources under which teachers can help students make significant academic gains. It will first apply to underperforming schools in Detroit in the 2012-2013 school year and then be expanded to cover the entire state.

The system will place the ultimate power for running each school in the hands of the principal, teachers and staff at the school, rather than in a central administration or office far removed from the school. It will allow principals to hire the best teachers; place, train and support them to provide continuous improvement based on student needs and ensure that at least a third more taxpayer dollars are spent directly in the classroom. Schools will remain in the EAS until they show marked progress for their students at which time they can choose to stay or return their transformed DPS public school system.

“Students in every Michigan school deserve educational opportunities that prepare them for a successful future,” Snyder said. “The time is now to establish a permanent solution and to provide teachers in our most challenged schools and students of all backgrounds with the tools, resources and safe learning environments they need to flourish. Our kids, citizens and economy will all benefit.”

The new EAS also will place greater emphasis on community involvement in schools. A Parent Advisory Council (PAC) will be formed at each school to incorporate local feedback and direction in a way that is much more direct than was possible previously. As the school progresses in its improvement plan, the parent council will assume additional responsibilities for supporting its school. Parents also will be asked to agree in writing to play a role in making sure their children succeed in school.

“Today is not about giving up on DPS or its students,” Roberts said. “It is about strengthening it, supporting them, creating a long term sustainable model that ensures 100 percent college- and career-ready graduates, 100 percent of third graders reading at grade level, as much as 95 percent of resources going directly to the schools, programs that attract and retain students and families, a wide range of innovative choices, safe and secure schools, financial sustainability, lean and supportive central administration and rewarding and flexible teacher career paths.

“There are many good schools in the Detroit Public School system that will remain within the Detroit Public Schools system, but we are not on the path to achieve our goals and replicate those successful schools under the current system design,” Roberts added. “The new Education Achievement System will drive dramatically more resources into school classrooms, offer schools greater autonomy to use best practices and ensure significant and sustainable student achievement increases.”

Snyder and Roberts said their announcement was held at Detroit Renaissance High School to underscore the excellence that can be found in DPS schools.

Snyder and Roberts also announced they are working with foundations, businesses and philanthropic organizations on a plan modeled after the successful Kalamazoo Promise to guarantee that all students who graduate from a high school in Detroit will have the financial resources to attend, at a minimum, their choice of a two-year college or career training school in Michigan. The goal is to expand the program to include four-year colleges as quickly as possible.

Organizers have embarked on an aggressive fund raising effort and will be seeking 4-year college and university partners to create and then expand this program so that Detroit graduates may ultimately receive guaranteed financial resources to afford a four-year college education.

Snyder and Roberts said the new Education Achievement System will restructure challenged schools in a variety of ways so that they meet parent, student and teacher needs.  They include:

  • Ensuring that each child’s school has a principal that 1) is qualified and knows how to create a safe learning environment and 2) passionately believes that every child, of every background, is capable of success.
  • Spending as much money as possible in the classroom – not on administration – to help students and teachers make dramatic academic gains. Detroit Public Schools currently spends nearly half of its entire budget on bureaucracy and management, with $900 per student going simply to pay off debt. Because the system will operate on a very lean administrative structure and not be required to payout funds toward debt reduction, it will ultimately seek to push 95 percent of all school funds to the classroom.
  • Hiring teachers that have a track record or the promise of success, and then empowering, supporting and rewarding them to succeed in the classroom.  Every staff member in the central office will be held responsible for supporting teachers in the classroom, and all employees will work under a “continuous improvement” model that allows staff to provide students with immediate help when they have fallen behind.  Staff will be able to access a multitude of cutting edge national and local resources to bring students up to speed, regularly monitoring their progress and continuing this loop until each student achieves at dramatically higher levels.
  • Providing students with a challenging curriculum and longer school day that will allow for more instructional time in core subject areas like reading and math as well as access to the arts, music and physical education.
  • Providing every parent a voice in the future of their child’s school, including a role in the Parent Advisory Councils where they can provide direct feedback and guidance. As the school makes academic gains, the parent council will assume additional responsibilities for supporting its school.
  • Sharing local school performance data with parents so they can make an informed decision about how to get the best possible education for their child.
  • Asking parents to agree in writing to play a role in making sure their children succeed in school.

The Educational Achievement System will initially be run in partnership with DPS under Roberts’ leadership. Roberts will remain emergency manager of DPS while at the same time serving as chair of the Executive Committee of the system during its 2011-2012 incubation period. The system will develop capacity during the 2011-12 school year and will receive its first schools from DPS in September 2012.

“In my special message on education reform in April I said our system must position our children to compete globally in a knowledge-based economy and to have the highest possible quality of life,” he said. “To accomplish that goal we need to reshape our system so that all students learn at the highest level. This plan, which was developed after extensive research into the most successful efforts to improve low-performing schools around the country, is designed to achieve that goal.”

The system will be governed by an Educational Achievement Authority that will be established through an inter-local agreement between Eastern Michigan University and Detroit Public Schools. While both of these “parent organizations” were necessary to form the authority, it will be an independent, free-standing entity.

Eventually, the system will assume responsibility for and manage the schools from the 5 percent lowest performing schools in Michigan that are not achieving satisfactory performance on their schools’ redesign plans. As the EAS develops greater capacity, other school districts with schools that do not fall in the bottom 5 percent in performance will have the opportunity to enter into a partnership with the authority to take advantage of its best practices.

The system will be governed by an 11-member board, with two members appointed by DPS, two members appointed by Eastern Michigan University and seven members appointed by the Governor. Five members of the board will make up the Executive Committee, which will be chaired by Roy Roberts and comprised of one board member selected by DPS (Roberts), one member selected by EMU and three of the board members selected by the Governor. The Executive Committee will also select a Chancellor for the system.

A school that enters the system will remain under its jurisdiction for a period of five years. At the end of that period, a determination will be made by the EAS, with input from the Parent Advisory Council regarding the improvement in performance by students in the school. If the school is deemed healthy and performing, the school will have a choice: remain in the EAS, move back to DPS (or other district), or seek a charter to run independently.

Roberts said the model of greater autonomy and more community engagement at each individual school also will be incorporated into DPS and its central bureaucracy, also slated to be dramatically reduced in size. He said the combined EAS and DPS central organizations will be much smaller than the existing district organization, allowing for more dollars to be spent in classrooms where they are needed most.

DPS also will continue to manage all DPS property, debt service management and will continue to receive local tax revenue.

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