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State's School Closure Plans Under Fire

Feb 21, 2017

Michigan's School Reform Office (SRO) should rescind all threats of school closures, which stand to harm those targeted low-income communities and further erode school employee morale, according to a strongly worded statement issued by the State Board of Education on Wednesday.

"There is a potential for disruption and harm to students, as school closure is a state- created form of student mobility and a large body of research finds that student mobility can have harmful effects on student performance," the statement said.In a 6-1 bipartisan vote to issue the statement, State Board members also agreed authority over the SRO should be returned to the Michigan Department of Education (MDE). Gov. Rick Snyder transferred the SRO away from MDE to an office under his control nearly two years ago.

Major changes to state standardized testing have occurred in the last four years, and more shifts are expected as the state implements a new federal law that replaces No Child Left Behind, known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). As part of its draft ESSA implementation plan, the MDE is proposing changes to accountability measures that include a "partnership model" to help turn around low- performing schools rather than forcing closures. Analysis of needs and investment in struggling schools is the way to effect meaningful change, MEA President Steven B. Cook argued in his "Labor Voices" column in Wednesday's Detroit News.

Last month, the state's School Reform Office (SRO) issued the list of  38 schools at risk of closure as soon as the end of this school year - a list dominated by communities with high concentrations of children and families living in poverty. Snyder should "reconsider and reverse Executive Order 2015-9 that removed the State Superintendent of Public Education's authority over the School Reform Office and authority to develop the list of priority schools," the State Board said in the statement. Read More.