Uneducated grads may get tutoring

For years, Muskegon Heights (Michigan) students were denied a quality education, says the failed district’s emergency manager, Dr. Donald Weatherspoon. He hopes to provide free educational support services to graduates in the last six  classes in hopes they can improve their reading and math skills. It’s not clear what sort of help will be offered or how Muskegon Heights will pay for it.

Nearly all ninth-graders at Muskegon Heights High School started at least three grades behind in reading and math, according to Mosaica Education, the charter company that’s taken over the district’s low-performing schools.

Ninety-two percent of ninth graders tested at a sixth-grade level or lower in math; 82 percent were three or more years behind in reading.

“It’s a hard realization because those kids will go out in the world and not be prepared,” Weatherspoon said during a discussion of the scores with the Muskegon Heights Public Schools board.

High school teachers are struggling to figure out the best curriculum for students who are so far below grade level in skills and knowledge, he said.

The problem gets worse in middle school and much worse in ninth grade. After that, the least-successful students are likely to drop out.

Percentage of Muskegon Heights students at least three grades behind

Grade Reading Math
Fifth 23% 12%
Sixth 43% 34%
Seventh 42% 46%
Eighth 53% 57%
Ninth 92% 82%
10th 77% 81%
11th 84% 83%
12th 73% 80%
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  1. For those unfamiliar with Michigan’s emergency manager legislation its purpose is to intervene in school districts in which the school board/administration has demonstrated fiscal irresponsibility and spent the district into/close to, bankruptcy.

    Since educational considerations and fiscal considerations are inextricably intertwined the EM inevitably ends up deciding education policy much to the annoyance of the school board. The school board still exists and supposedly has the role of deciding education policy but without the power of the checkbook their role has turned out to be less then was originally thought.

    Just as well of course. A board that’s demonstrated an indifference to fiscal responsibility is hardly likely to be any more concerned with it’s educational responsibilities.

    With regard to the story, it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

    With Mosaica in charge of running the district one source of savings would be to fire the entire central office staff. Another source of savings would be to close the inevitably redundant schools in the district that the school board/administration didn’t have the political will to close.

    Of course the real test will be to see how successful the notion of high school postgrad education actually is.

  2. How many of these students are special needs, poverty, nonEnglish speaking, and/or transients that entered the school distict three or more grade levels behind?

    It would be a lot simpler to place the student by instructional need instead of age. Start an alternative middle school for those who are high school aged but do not have the academic skills. Teach them what they need and make their class time worthwhile.

  3. “How many of these students are special needs, poverty, nonEnglish speaking, and/or transients”

    Well, when 92% of ninth graders (and it would be worse for 10,11,12 if students didn’t just drop out) are at least three grades behind in reading, I think we can ignore the usual excuses. This is yet another failed school. Millions of dollars of public money wasted by failing to teach students a very simple skill: how to read.

    Certainly, parents and our society as a whole deserve much blame, but they weren’t the ones paid to take the responsibility of teaching the kids.

  4. Mark Roulo says:

    This is bad, but I don’t think that Muskegon Height’s is doing worse than many other schools with the same demographic.


    From Wikipedia, Muskegon Heights High School is 95% black.


    From the New York Times (Proficiency of Black Students Is Found to Be Far Lower Than Expected, 2010: “The analysis of results on the national tests found that math scores in 2009 for black boys were not much different than those for black girls in Grades 4 and 8, but black boys lagged behind Hispanics of both sexes, and they fell behind white boys by at least 30 points, a gap sometimes interpreted as three academic grades.”


    If “three grades behind” is the national norm/average/whatever for black students, then as horrible as it is, Muskegon Heights isn’t doing particularly worse than the average of the other schools in the US.


    I wish the emergency manager good luck, but lots of people have been trying to fix this problem for decades. If we have a solution, it is being treated as a carefully guarded secret 🙁

    • Richard Aubrey says:

      Hmmm. This being the season for conspiracy theories, I’d like to take your last sentence a bit further.
      Who stands to lose if blacks in the aggregate start doing as well as everybody else?
      When you start thinking about it, it’s a BIG bunch of folks looking for another gig.