In Detroit, Low-Performing Schools Get A Makeover

Jun 20, 2011
Originally published on June 20, 2011 6:10 pm
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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

As NPR's Larry Abramson reports, the emergency action has the support of the U.S. Department of Education, but many Detroit locals are skeptical.

LARRY ABRAMSON: Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced what is essentially the creation of a new district for failing schools, the Education Achievement System. The EAS will absorb more than 40 of the worst schools starting a year from now, Snyder said.

G: So the schools that are challenged will have an entire year to get prepared, to work on their own assessment to improve and, hopefully, not be part of that process, but if they are, to move into the 2012 school year.

ABRAMSON: The Education Achievement System will be headed by Roy Roberts, the same man now serving as emergency manager of the Detroit public schools. Roberts says schools in the new district will get much more autonomy, allowing principals to call the shots and control their own budgets.

NORRIS: It will allow principals to hire the best teachers; place, train and support them; therefore providing continuous improvement based on student need and nothing else.

ABRAMSON: Roy Roberts says he's talking to donors about setting up a fund...

NORRIS: ...to guarantee that all students who graduate from a high school in Detroit will have the financial resources to attend their choice of a two-year college or a career training school in the state of Michigan.

ABRAMSON: Michael Tenbusch, of the local United Way, has been trying to bring autonomy to local high schools for years.

NORRIS: You have to have a principal with the resources and ability to make decisions for the staff in his or her building. We think that's - without that, you don't get to success.

ABRAMSON: Greg Richmond, of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, has been helping Detroit review charter applications, but he was not consulted on this new plan.

NORRIS: But it's not clear to me yet what role, if any, charter schools will have in that new system.

ABRAMSON: Larry Abramson, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.