Detroit: We’ll convert 41 schools to charters

Faced with closing 41 schools, the bankrupt Detroit school district wants charter operators and Education Management Organizations to take over its failing schools by the start of the school year, reports the Detroit Free Press. That’s six months away. It may be impossible.

However, charter school operators and advocates across the nation said they believe the time line for chartering 30% of the district is too ambitious, given the amount of work that goes into hiring and training staff and developing a school design.

Converting low-performing California schools to charters didn’t raise reading and math scores, concludes a 2010 Brookings Institution report, which found converted schools “look more like traditional public schools than start-up charters.”

“The challenge of coming into an existing school is it frequently has a strong culture which might be dysfunctional, particularly if it’s been low-performing,” said Doug Ross, CEO of New Urban Learning, a nonprofit that operates charter schools in seven locations in Detroit.

KIPP, which prefers to start schools from scratch, already has said it won’t bid on Detroit’s surplus schools. Neither will Green Dot.

New Orleans, with 61 percent of students in charter schools, has seen significant progress since Hurricane Katrina “swept away much of the school system in 2005,” notes the free Press. “Prior to Hurricane Katrina, about 62% of New Orleans students attended failing schools. Today, that number has dropped to 17%.”

New Orleans schools that don’t improve are placed under the management of a high-performing school, said Paul Vallas, Recovery School District superintendent.

DPS should close its 41 schools, let those students be absorbed elsewhere and then convert some surviving schools to charters with rigorous standards, Vallas said.

“That would not only solve financial problems, it would solve your problem of school quality,” he said.

In addition to New Orleans, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Denver have given up control of the most troubled schools to outside operators, notes Ed Week.

However, only 5 percent of turnaround schools have been turned over to outside management, notes Title 1-Derland.

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  1. It’s interesting to note that the most successful charter operators shy away from situations where they’d be responsible for educating the exact same student populations that were attending the failing district schools.

  2. I think I’ve taught a few alligators.

  3. “The challenge of coming into an existing school is it frequently has a strong culture which might be dysfunctional, particularly if it’s been low-performing,”

    Translated: we can’t pick motivated students, but have to deal with the same population that public schools do.

  4. translation: hard to unpoison the waters of a bad culture. Better the close the school which is doing damage to the community (district or charter) and start anew.

  5. It’s comforting to see an appearance of the “It’s Not Our Fault” choir.

    Plenty of call for your services?

    You guys think conditions are bad now for the public education status quo? Just wait until politicians discover charter schools run on less money then district schools.

    Then it’ll be “Katy bar the door” because between the anti-tax forces and the crowd anxious to elbow up to the tax trough there’s liable to be quit a scrap to take apart the carcass of the public education system.

  6. Roger Sweeny says:

    Cal brings up a provocative truth. Lots of youngsters are unmotivated ABOUT ACADEMICS. Lots of jobs–even jobs that pay decently–don’t require much of any academic knowledge or skill. Why are we requiring everyone to do academics until they are 16 or older? Aren’t we setting them up for boredom and failure?

  7. robert quiroz says:

    Charter school operators are shying away from the challenge of teaching Detroit students. These are the same critics of public schools! It is time to be honest about the need to create a better environment for the children, one that would support their education from birth.

    Where are the business leaders who are hiring people from outside the US because they can find scientists and engineers willing to come to take these good jobs?

    It is time to stop blaming education for the crisis we have in the city of Detroit and in other cities of America. We need business, education, and community to come together in a regional political team. When the city and suburbs join together to deal with the water suburbs want control. Why not when we see the tragic situation of our young African Americans who need a good education that will allow them to get out of poverty, avoid crime, and rebuild the city.